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June 30, 2004
Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 While Jason Walsh in The Marin (California) Independent-Journal thinks Spider-Man 2 is better than the first film, he does demur when it comes to its digital animation. He says, “For some reason, the Spider-Man films still can't get the digital animation right. Whether it's because most of the action takes place in daylight (unlike most superhero movies) or whether the speed and motion of the animated characters needs to be rethought, the action sequences are the films' major weakness. It turns thoughts from movie to video game in the blink of an eye. But the bad digitization is forgivable in these films, probably because they're the rare superhero movies that are predicated less on their special effects than on their whimsy.” ... However, Jason Silverman in Wired thinks,  “Spider-Man 2's effects are hugely sophisticated, but they don't drive the movie.”... And Mike Clark in USA Today feels, “With special effects so convincing you don't even think about them, a head-case hero and a three-dimensional villain who is his equal, socko Spider-Man 2 (* * * * out of four) has something for everyone.”

Kaena: The Prophecy
Kaena: The ProphecyLarry Carroll's review in Film Stew begins,“'The sap is drying up!' a character shrieks in terror early on in the film Kaena: The Prophecy. These people don’t need to fear, however; there’s plenty of sap here to go around. Although the film does have its moments, this jumbled mess of sci-fi clichés, cheap looking CGI animation and melodrama can’t even make the last performance of the great Richard Harris worth checking out. ... Evolved from a video game idea, Kaena: The Prophecy is the first full length 3D-generated animated film from France, but then again Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within broke new ground as well and look where that got us.” While he feels the look of the film is “frequently impressive,” he feels, “The video game aesthetic also takes over the look of the film too much at times, leaving you feeling like you’re watching one of those vignettes after you beat a level of the latest RockStar Games adventure. Ultimately, it’s one small step for France, one giant yawn for the rest of the world.”

Lions Gate Reports Loss, Hikes Sales Outlook
Reuters reports, “Film and TV company Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. reported a steep fiscal year loss on Tuesday as high marketing costs for films it gained in a recent merger pinched its bottom line. But that merger with Artisan Entertainment, which closed late last year, also gave Lions Gate a bigger stake in the booming DVD market, and was one reason it boosted its revenue target for fiscal 2005 to $680 million from $650 million.” Lion Gate's press release adds, “The Company reported a net loss of $94.2 million for the fiscal year compared to net income of $1.1 million in the previous fiscal year. This loss included a net loss of $51 million in the fiscal fourth quarter. Fourth quarter financial results included non-recurring items such as the $8.1 million provision for the investment in and other receivables relating to Lions Gate's strategic animation partner CineGroupe, currently in reorganization.”

Kia — Think About It & BBC Rewrites Greek Mythology
Kia - Think About It Picanto commercial Carpages reports, “In a radical departure from normal car advertising Kia Motors is not following the well trodden path of perfect people in glamorous locations with clean, shiny cars on empty roads. Taking a leaf out of the book of recent state-of-the art animated characters, like Nemo and Shrek, Kia is putting its cars into real life situations using seven computer generated characters to tell the story. The bold move signals the first National TV Advertising Campaign [in the UK] for the rapidly expanding car company. ... The cartoonist for the advertisements is Pete Fowler who has worked on numerous commercial and advertising projects such as Levi’s/Cinch, Nintendo, Selfridges, and Swiss Telecom. Director Pete Candeland of Passion Pictures worked alongside Pete Fowler to create the final result for Kia. Pete Candeland has worked on projects ranging from commercial to feature films and directed the music videos for the successful animated band, Gorillaz.” ... And Media Bulletin has this story about the production of “ BBC's biggest ad campaign of the year to promote the Athens Olympic and Paralympic Games. ... The story, which uses special effects, is designed to mirror those of all of the athletes taking part who have overcome personal demons and incredible obstacles to be at their best to compete, regardless of medal expectations.” It also notes, “Passion Pictures has produced the animated creations of Hermes, Herciles and Poseidon.”

The Head Ed
Ed, Edd 'n EddyThe Munster (Indiana) Times has this interview with Danny Antonucci, the creator and producer of “Ed, Edd 'n Eddy, the [Cartoon Network] animated series about three pals and the kids who snub them,” which is starting its fifth year. Asked how broke into cartooning, he says, “I was lucky to know what I wanted to do when I was 15. I took a Saturday morning course on animation. I had no clue what was in store. I did a little short film, The Adventures of Barfman, who threw up on evildoers. I focused my direction on becoming an animator and went to ... Sheridan College of Visual Arts in Oakville, Ontario.” As to how important artistic ability is, he replies, “There's a lot of folks who tell will you it's important to be a good draftsman. For me, it's about attitude first, then the technical aspects. Some things can be learned and embellished on. If you have the attitude, there is that spark in you that wants to create things. ... It's like rock 'n' roll. It's all about the attitude. I've played in bands a lot of my life. I've adopted that philosophy.”

Winsor McCay: The Master Edition
Gertie the DinosaurChris Hyde in Box Office Prophets has this review of the new DVD from Milestone Film & Video containing all of the films of the pioneer animator; it includes not only such films as Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur and The Sinking of the Lusitania, but also a documentary by John Canemaker, who provides the commentary. He says, “While the great artist Winsor McCay was not — as he was often known to claim — the inventor of the animated film, he was undoubtedly its first real genius. Though one certainly doesn’t wish to disparage the brilliant contributions of early animators like James Stuart Blackton or Emile Cohl, none of these contemporary groundbreakers raised the level of the art in the manner that McCay did. For this man was to make films of a kind that would not be equaled for many years after he had stopped creating cinema, leaving a body of work that even today possesses a strange and potent vibrancy.”

June 29, 2004
Vinton Studios Hops on Animation Wave
According to The Portland Tribune, “The Northwest Portland-based [Vinton Studios] has hired a new supervising director with the goal of aggressively pursuing family-friendly feature films. Henry Selick, a writer and director known for his stop-motion animation in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, joined Vinton Studios last month. It’s all part of the studio’s plan — in the wake of a round of layoffs three years ago — to grab some of the national popularity of animated films, said Jeff Farnath, Vinton Studios’ chief executive officer. ... 'All of a sudden now, all of Hollywood realizes you don’t have to be from Disney to be successful in animation,' he said. 'The demand is a lot higher now.' During the next year, Farnath said, he wants the studio to get at least five feature-length animation projects into active development. Selick will work on some ideas he brought to the studio, as well as others that have been in the works internally. The foray into feature films also comes as the industry pulls out of a three-year slump in advertising that drove some of the layoffs at Vinton Studios, Farnath said.”

Akihabara Becomes Geek Sex Paradise
Japan Today notes, “Akihabara has long been known for its overwhelming array of electronics stores like Ishimaru Denki, Onoden, Satomusen and many more. However, the area has undergone something of a makeover recently with posters and figures of animated beautiful girls plastered all over the place and the emergence of cafes and restaurants devoted to 'cosplay,' featuring girls dressed as animated heroes, maids, etc. Even a public area, such as the floor space of JR Akihabara station, has got into the act, with a 3-meter-round poster of the face of a beautiful girl appearing in an animation video. Kiichiro Morikawa, a professor at the Kuwasawa Design Research Institute, said, 'An increasing number of animation goods and game shops have opened their doors and changed the area into an “otaku” (geek) Mecca.' Self-confessed “super otaku” Tetsuto Fujiyama says, 'There are five different kinds of geeks in Akihabara. The oldest denizens are the electric appliance geeks. ... Next are the PC geeks .... . Third are TV animation geeks whose brains can't distinguish between reality and the animation. The fourth group are the magazine geeks who have made original animation fantasy stories influenced from TV and game animation and publish them in small magazines circulated among themselves. The last group are those geeks who love to play video games in which erotic animation is used.' ... About a month ago, the world's first animation movie theater, Akihabara Oriental Comic Theater, opened. Not only will it show movies, it will also serve as a forum for fans and creative talent such as animation writers and voice actors.”

'Read or Die' & ‘Gungrave'
Read or Die video coverEric Henrickson in The Detroit News has this review of two new video releases, R.O.D. the TV: The Paper Sisters, vol. 1, which he rates as A-, and Gungrave: Beyond the Grave, vol. 1., which he gives a C-. He notes that the Read or Die series is “a sequel to the OVA about a woman with the power to physically manipulate paper, doesn't include the original's main character, Yomiko Readman. ... [It] moves at a good clip, but not too fast. ... The animation is one of the highlights of this show. ... The tone is light, but the action is serious, a nice mix that works well with a terrific soundtrack. As for Gungrave, he feels it is “all pretty ho-hum. The best part is the designs for the undead mafia enforcers. Otherwise, it's lots of shooting, lots of blood.”

In Brief: 'Hum Tum' TV, Fuji TV Going Global, Museums & Shrek 2 International
Hum Tum comic strip panel
Agencyfaqs.com proclaims, “The film has been a hit. So apparently is the comic strip [pictured], which appears in the city supplements of a leading English daily. Now, watch out for the animated version of the comic strip. Yash Raj Films, the company behind the [live-action/animated] blockbuster Hum Tum, is in preliminary talks with local cartoon channels, for bringing the comic strip alive on television. This will be the first time when an Indian movie-spawned cartoon characters will make a TV appearance. ... Mainichi Shimbun reports, “Fuji Television Network (Fuji TV) has decided to tap its way into the international market for Japanese cartoons with the production of a feature length animation, company officials announced Monday. The television company will produce a cartoon titled Brave Story, written by Miyuki Miyabe [and directed by Koichi Chigira].” It will be made by Gonzo Digimation and distributed by Disney's Buena Vista International division and will combine hand-drawn and CGI animation, and will cost about 1 billion yen (about US$9.2 million). ... ... The Associated Press has this article on how “Children's museums around the US are enticing youngsters with close-up encounters with their favorite TV and book characters,” including their animated incarnations. ... While the focus of U.S. box office interest has shifted to Fahrenheit 9/11, Shrek 2 continues to hold its own overseas. For example, The Korea Times reports, “Shrek 2 stayed strong at the local box office, taking the top spot for the second week in a row. The film ... has been seen by 1.8 million viewers nationwide since opening June 18.” While Reuters notes the movie “has lifting [its] international haul to $90.1 million.”

June 28, 2004
Spider-Man on TV
Spider-Man TV series for MTVIGN Online provides this historical survey of Spider-Man on TV, which began in 1967, when “Krantz Films in New York contracted Gantray-Lawrence Animation in Canada to produce 52 episodes of a Spider-Man series that was to run on the ABC television network. Unfortunately, Gantray-Lawrence went bankrupt after producing the first 20 episodes so the remainder of the series' production was moved to Krantz's studios in New York under new producer, Ralph Bakshi. Using a lot of elements from the early run of the comic book series, this series was a lot of people's introduction to the world of the wall crawling superhero. Some stories were almost complete re-tellings of Lee/Ditko stories while others were fairly standard Saturday morning kid-vid fare. The addition of a snazzy theme song didn't hurt, either. That song, more than anything else about the series, has remained an enduring element of the Spider-Man mythos ever since, with versions appearing in both theatrical films and even as a bonus track on a Ramones CD.” It goes on to cover all the various TV incarnations, including the Spidey Super Stories segments on PBS children's show, The Electric Company, through the MTV series [pictured] that played in the wake of Sam Raimi's feature film.

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Animator
Spider-Man: The '67 Collection coverSpeaking of the original TV series, The Toronto Globe and Mail uses the occasion of the show's video release to interview Ralph Bakshi about his role in its production. It notes, “While fans may remember the series for its campy dialogue and psychedelic animation, Bakshi remembers Spider-Man for the perpetual feeling of exhaustion it induced. 'Can you imagine a young man staggering home from the studio burnt out every night of the week?' Bakshi recalls in a fit of laughter from his home in Silver City, N.M. 'My girlfriend left me, my cocaine dealer left me. ... I lost more girls to Spider-Man than I can count — I wouldn't do it again no matter what I was paid.' ... 'I was working seven days a week around the clock to get the quality right. . . . I was afraid that if I left the studio the whole thing was going to collapse.' Bakshi says he was given $14,000 (U.S.) and one week to produce each episode. ... 'Only a young, crazy [28-year-old] would ever take a job like that,' he says. 'It was almost like they were saying, “Go ahead and do it, we dare you.”'” Adding, that because of budget restraints, “Whenever we fell short a couple of minutes, I just kept the son of a bitch swinging.”

Special Defects
Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic recalls, “The first time you saw starcruisers fighting in the original Star Wars movie in 1977, it was exciting. Now when you see starcruisers fighting it's boring. As the summer movies take over America's screens, it's time to point out that special effects themselves have become boring. ... Once, moviegoers marveled at how special effects could make scenes look almost real. Now most computer-drawn special effects don't look even remotely real, and it's a snooze. The hippogriff in the new movie Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom does look real, but it's the exception. Special effects used to mean stunt people doing dangerous aerobatics and intricate spaceship models photographed in dark chambers. Now special effects are entirely pixels. Audiences know there is no ingenuity or physical reality involved, just computer-drawn pixels being inserted digitally. Which is boring. ... Computer-generated effects are particularly annoying because, once you've got the basic design, pressing the 'repeat' key fills the screen with multiple phoniness. The skies in The Chronicles of Riddick are so thick with fake spaceships generated by pressing the repeat key that you shrug. For all of Hollywood's boasting about its amazing special effects, this summer's movies look much phonier than the Buck Rogers serials of the 1930s.” However, his main complaint seems to be how filmmakers use special effects to create actions which are totally divorced from any sense of reality.

In Brief: What No Krumpet?, More Animation Training Centres & Kidman's Voice
Sejong Park's Birthday BoyThe Sydney Morning Herald in reporting on the winners of the Sydney Film Festival noted that it was a “big surprise was that Adam Elliot's Oscar-winning Harvie Krumpet did not win a Dendy award for Australian short films. [Instead, the] animation category was won by director Sejong Park's Birthday Boy [pictured], about a boy dreaming of life at the front during the Korean War.” ... The Financial Express reports, “Sensing the huge demand [in India] — estimated at about 3,000 professionals on an annual basis — for 2D animation and digital media technologies manpower, Padmalaya Telefilms Ltd has proposed to open two more animation-cum-digital media training centres in Kolkata and Mumbai soon [in addition to one in [Hyderabad].” See also more detailed Sify story.] ... According to World Entertainment News Network, “Nicole Kidman is set to earn $108 million to voice an animated movie version of CS Lewis' classic novel, The Chronicles Of Narnia, which will make her the highest paid actor in the world.” The amount is contingent on voicing all seven films in the series, including the first, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

June 27, 2004
How The Ogre Flattened Mickey
Shrek 2The Sunday Herald (also here) uses the success of Shrek 2 as the occasion for yet another death of cel animation story, noting 'last year all major Hollywood studios laid down their pencils and ink and stopped production of traditional 2D animated features. Even Disney. The 2D dregs commissioned before the cull will appear over the next few years (Disney’s Home On The Range, Universal’s Curious George), but in Hollywood CGI is regarded as the only way to animate from now on. All of which has left a lot of animators very angry. 'There are a lot of frustrated people here,' says Bill Desowitz, editor of Animation World Network ..... 'There is a feeling that 2D is seen in the same way black-and-white was viewed: aesthetically it has become antiquated. So there is a certain dynamic aspect, a freshness to CGI. And the pre-teen and teenage audience that might be turned off by traditional animation finds 3D more hip.' And according to one of the world’s leading animators, it is Disney, the company that created the art of 2D animated features, which is responsible for 'bringing it to the grave'. 'They don’t know how to do 2D animated films any more. They have bored people. They are really losing everything,' says Sylvain Chomet, the talent behind last year’s animated hit, Belleville Rendezvous. 'It is not because of the artist. It is because of the production people who want to do their films in a certain way. They want to use recipes and they always want to get these old stories that have already been done 100 times. There is no originality, and people are craving for originality.'”

The Never-ending Story

The AnimatrixAccording to The Age, “Hollywood is drawing on animation to fill in the storylines between releases of blockbuster live action films. Van Helsing: The London Assignment and The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, a pair of animated direct-to-DVD releases, capitalise on their recent big-screen counterparts and expand on the back-stories of the title characters. The animated titles also feature the voices of the respective film stars, Hugh Jackman and Vin Diesel. The animated DVDs were inspired by the success of last year's The Animatrix [pictured], a collection of nine anime-style shorts that accompanied the [Matrix] sequels. They elaborated on the mythology of the films. The Animatrix was one of the top-selling direct-to-DVD titles of 2003 in the US, making $US30.5 million ($A42.5 million) according to industry figures. ... The trend isn't just limited to DVD. This month, the Cartoon Network and Lucasfilm announced plans to produce additional animated episodes of Star Wars: Clone Wars to air in March 2005, two months before the release of Star Wars: Episode III in cinemas.”

Family Friendly Television Group Growing at its Fifth Anniversary
The Associated Press has this story about the role of the Family Friendly Programming Forum, which claims to have had “a real impact on the kind of shows that the major broadcast networks are airing. The forum provided seed money to help develop seven programs on the networks' fall schedule (four holdovers and three new series). 'I think we've turned around attitudes,' said Bill McCarron, co-chairman of the forum with [ Pfizer's Kaki] Hinton. 'You listen to any upfront (fall schedule presentation) and every network talks about family-oriented programming now. Five years ago they were afraid to.' ... The advertisers who founded the forum — including Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, IBM, Sears and Coca-Cola — had no idea how to promote alternatives until hearing an idea from Jamie Kellner, then chief executive of the WB network. Kellner suggested the executives read prospective scripts and help finance ones they believed families could watch together.” While most of the programming it funds is live action, this fall they are also backing “Father of the Pride, NBC's animated half-hour about lions who perform with Siegfried and Roy.”

In Brief: Kolkata Animation Academy & Cartoons Come to Life
The Goof model sheetThe Times of India reports, “ The institute on which Bengal is banking to emerge as a major player in the fast-growing animation arena may soon undergo a change in character. Plans are afoot to convert the recently-opened Toonz Webel academy into an independent entity and get it registered as an autonomous society so that decision-making can be speeded up at the institute which aims to become the best of its kind in the country in a few years time.” The academy is a joint venture between Bengal's Webel and Toonz Animation India. ... The Des Moines Register has this report on an exhibit, From Mickey to the Grinch: Art of the Animated Film, at The Blanden Memorial Art Museum, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. It notes, the exhibit 'features work by and from the collection of George Nicholas originally organized by an Eire, Pennsylvania museum. Nicholas worked with Disney, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hanna-Barbera and other studios from the 1930s to the 1970s. Mickey Mouse, Goofy, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Bambi, Pinocchio and their fantastical friends are in this exhibit in their most fundamental forms. The exhibit showcases some original drawings, cells and prints from animated films, as well as television series.'”

June 26, 2004
A Teenage Heroine on a Planet in Peril
Kaena: The ProphecyThe New York Times has this review by Dave Kehr of Chris Delaporte's Kaena: The Prophecy, which “enjoys the distinction of being the first 3-D animation produced in France, though it goes to some length to disguise itself as either Asian or American — not a mistake made by the proudly Gallic international animated success The Triplets of Belleville. Despite several striking images and a high technical polish, this picture is just generic fantasy, deriving its anime-style characters from Japanese cartoons and its quest scenario from the many Hollywood fantasy films drawn from the mythological studies of Joseph Campbell. In the end, it's a movie from no place, with no distinguishing marks of its own.” It concludes that the film's “secondhand imagery and ideas seem to have barely involved its makers; it definitely does not involve its audience.”

No Kidding!
Tom and JerryScreen India has this story about the current state of children's TV programming in India, which begins by noting, “11 million kids in the UK. 20 channels devoted to them. 315 million kids under 14 in India. Only four exclusive channels to choose from. What does it say? That there is a huge market out there waiting to be tapped. So far, the Indian kids segment has been taken care of by the foreign channels like Turner International’s Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, POGO and Splash. Cartoon Network, the first to be launched in India, is leading the pack. Started in 1995, with cartoons like Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones and The Popeye Show, the channel was a runaway hit with the kids. ... The success of Cartoon Network paved way for another kids channel Nickelodeon, which recently has turned [into] Nick in India. ... Five months ago, the Turner Group launched another channel for kids, this time aiming at the older segment. Called POGO, the channel is a mix of edutainment and entertainment. ... Amidst all these channels, UTV is all set to start a Hungama kids channel which will be distributed by STAR.”

Anigraph 2004 Opens with Session on Special Effects
In reporting on Anigraph 2004, Indian Television notes, “The keynote address was delivered by 16 December and Rudraksha fame Mani Shankar, who aptly pointed out what ails the Indian animation industry today. 'The future is bright for the animation industry and yet, important hurdles need to be overcome. The animation Industry has grown incredibly in the last few years, yet mindsets of a few, who hold the key reins of power have not changed,' offered Shankar in a nutshell. 'There is a widespread appreciation for the quality and finesse of our work. The west has started outsourcing content from India. The future is bright, and yet something is lacking. The circle is incomplete. Animation of films has still not taken of in India. A measly two-three effects laden films cannot compete with the 100 odd films minus animation that are churned out,' he offered.” ... See also Indian Television's survey of what happened during the second day of the computer graphics event.

In Brief: Bob Bemer Dead at 84 & Disney's Tom Staggs
NewsFactor Network has this obituary of “the American programmer who gave computers ASCII, the escape key and the backslash, [who] died at age 84.” It also notes that, “At Lockheed, he devised the first computerized 3-D dynamic perspective, a prelude to today's computer animation.” ... The Motley Fool Radio Show has this audio interview with Disney CFO Tom Staggs in which, among other things, he talks about the Pixar breakup and the company's ability to produce films of the same caliber as Pixar.

June 25, 2004
Mike Judge
King of the HillThe Onion has this interview with the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill. Asked about “the process of getting King Of The Hill started,” Judge says, “I'd done this deal with Fox, because I thought that everything was about to go downhill for me. Like, 'Beavis And Butt-Head is going to die off, and I don't want to be 50 and broke.' So I kind of sold out. It was the best way to become un-owned by MTV. Fox wanted an animated show to follow The Simpsons. At first I was thinking, 'Oh, God, what am I going to come up with to follow that?' Then I thought, 'I'm going to do what I really want to do, and if they say no, then I don't have to do the show. If they say yes, then I get to do something I want to do.' I kind of generally pitched stories about my neighbors and people I knew, and I'd done the drawing of the four guys with their beers in front of the fence. That's where it started.” In addition to his work in animation, Judge also discusses his live-action films, including Office Space and 3001, which is currently in production.

June 24, 2004
Filmart 2004 Talks Digital at Inaugural Session
Rob MinkoffIndian Television has this report from the Filmart 2004 conference in Hong Kong, including Rob Minkoff's talk “on the topic of 'The Digital Technologies in Storytelling: a case study on Stuart Little.' During the session, Minkoff recounted the evolution of Disney animation and spoke passionately on how digital technology brought in the crossroad in animation. 'Because of the technology, it is possible to make the characters more amazing, more real in terms of thinking and feeling,' said Minkoff. 'It breaks that traditional wall that exists between a 2-D animated movie and its audiences.' Minkoff was especially excited about the new frontier of animation. He pointed out that as there were at present just a few animated films or features made, there could be more genre of animated films like comedy, or features on sex and violence (though not of his personal interest).”

Summer Campaign to Protect Marine Life
Saving RinuThe Times of Malta reports, “The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has coordinated a summer campaign for the protection of the seabed. The project, launched to mark World Environment Day, has been initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme and is entitled Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive?, to highlight the various threats to marine life. Mepa has created the character of Rinu in a 2D animated video production [Saving Rinu] for the summer campaign [which] is currently being screened three times daily on PBS.”

Westonite Went from New York to London in a Yellow Submarine
Yellow Submarine video coverThe Westport (Connecticut) Minuteman has this story about local resident Al Brodax on the making of Yellow Submarine, which he produced and co-wrote. “As critic Michael Korda said, it is 'a work of almost unbelievable beauty, power and sheer good humor.' But making it was anything but sheer good humor. Even though it was 'a special spot of time.' And so, every night when Brodax returned to his hotel room in London from the production studio where Yellow Submarine was being made, he wrote in long-hand about the personalities, the problems, and the few and far-between triumphs. He left London with a sheaf of papers that, almost 40 years later, have become a book called Up Periscope Yellow, the Making of the Beatles Yellow Submarine. ... To make a full-length cartoon movie on a budget of only $1 million was an incredible challenge. To make it with the brilliant, world famous Beatles was also an incredible opportunity. Was Brodax nervous about such an undertaking? 'I was too stupid and innocent to be nervous,' he said.”

June 23, 2004
Tricky Business
Jurassic ParkThe Sydney Morning Herald has this discussion on special effects related to the Digital Media Festival in Melbourne. “Victorian-born Ben Snow works for Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) ... thinks there is a real danger in overuse of visual effects. Filmmakers tend to demand more when they see what is possible. But bigger isn't necessarily better, he says. 'If you don't pause and let the emotions work and let the people relate to the characters, the audience just gets numbed. Every shot might be really impressive, but they don't have as much bang for their buck because there's another really impressive shot straight afterwards. If you have a movie that has infinite numbers of big shots then it's harder to create those memorable moments, where people go, “Wow, I'll remember that forever.” There's so much you just get overwhelmed.'” And “Sydney-based animation and physical effects specialist Steve Courtley [says] “Good effects on one film will set a benchmark for better effects next time... I think that there is a bit of (audience) desensitisation going on. Hence everything gets bigger and bigger and more spectacular.” (Image is from Jurassic Park.)

In Brief: Shrek KO's Harry & Anigraph India
ABC Regional Online reports, “After only three days Shrek 2 has smashed ticket sales records in Australia bumping Harry Potter to number 2. Shrek 2 took over $13 million [US$9 million] at the box office between Thursday and Sunday and will most likely break all Australian records for ticket sales.” ... Indian Television notes, “'Anigraph 2004', which claims to be India's biggest & best Animation, Graphics and Visual Effects Event, opens tomorrow at Mumbai's swank Rangsharda auditorium. The show, organised by ACM Siggraph Mumbai (India) Chapter has India's VFX pioneer Ramesh Meer at the helm of affairs.”

June 22, 2004
Indian Entry Wins at Annecy Awards
DeewanaMid-Day Mumbai reports, “In recent years, there’s been a lot of interest in Indian culture in the West, especially the joie-de vivre of Bollywood. Following that colourful, kitschy look, ad filmmakers Benaifer Malik and Rajiv Rajamani created an animated video [Deewana], which won them the Best Music Video of 2004 at the Annecy [Animation Festival] in France last Saturday. ... This is the first time the award has been given to an entry from India and the ad junkies couldn’t be more pleased. Rajamani, surgeon turned filmmaker, who visualised the animation style that echoes the classical miniature paintings of India says, 'The video essentially depicts a courtesan trying to keep her royal suitor at bay.' ... A lot of animation work from around the world is currently outsourced from India, but unfortunately India is considered more a venue for labour-intensive drawing work. Hopefully, such an award puts India on the map as a possible source of creative ideas and not just a sweatshop.”

Animation Enlivens Documentaries
Silence Stella Babirz in The Age notes, “Mention animation and most people think funny rather than deep — not surprising, given the cartoon is directly descended from the comic strip. Which could be why the animated documentary has, until recently, mostly been limited to instructional shorts and propaganda in the hope a light-hearted approach will make a serious or dull subject more palatable. ... Now, thanks to cheap computer technology, animation is branching out into every type of documentary, including mockumentary, biography, history and its own hybrids. All of them can be seen in this year's Melbourne International Animation Festival documentary program.” Among the animated documentaries she writes about are Dennis Tupicoff's His Mother's Voice (1997), Orly Yadin's Silence (1998) (pictured) and Dustin Woehrmann's Everybody Bowl (1998).

Writing's on the Wall & Elliot's Oscar
The Melbourne Herald Sun reports, “Adam Elliot has started work on the follow-up to his Oscar-winning animated short Harvie Krumpet. The Eye caught up with the St Kilda filmmaker as he announced he was handing over his precious Oscar to go on permanent display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Elliot said he had begun writing for a new short film, which he hopes will be followed by his first feature.” However, he notes he is “doing corporate gigs in the evenings” and writing his script during the day. ... Meanwhile, The Age (see also this earlier version of the story) has this report on the ceremony putting Elliot's Oscar on display at the ACMI which featured Acting Australian Premier John Thwaites and Bruce Petty, who previously won an Oscar in 1977 for Leisure. “The Academy Award and one of two remaining clay models of Harvie Krumpet will be on permanent display in the ACMI foyer at Federation Square. 'We've taken the little nude gold man all around the world and he's had quite a life,' Elliot said. 'It's time to put him to bed.' ... Bruce Petty ... confessed he had no idea of the statue's whereabouts. 'When I got it, the Oscar went to the producer... we got a picture of it, a very nice gold-framed picture,' he said. The ceremony coincided with the opening of the Melbourne International Animation Festival. See also ACMI's press release.

In Brief: Cartoons for Grown-ups, UTV IPO &
A Winter's DayThe Straits Times has this brief look at some of the films being shown at the upcoming Animation Nation festival, claiming that, “Local audiences are about to find out that animated films are not limited to cutesy, lighthearted fluff. ... Organised by the Singapore Film Society, this is the first time a local film festival has been devoted solely to animated films. For a taste of the sheer diversity of styles that animation has to offer, the Japanese film A Winter's Day [pictured] is a good production to start with. ... According to Sify, UTV's promoter and largest shareholder, Ronnie Screwvala, on Monday announced that he had completed a buyback of shares from News Corp (Star) and CDPQ, a pension fund from Canada, to take his shareholding to 54 per cent ahead of a possible IPO. ... UTV has three principal businesses: television, movie and broadcasting. The television business includes content production (both fiction and non-fiction), animation and airtime sales.” Its UTV Toons division is one of the largest animation studios in India.

June 21, 2004
Shrek's Creators Rolling in Green & Terabytes
Shrek 2The San Francisco Chronicle has this story which notes, “They're seeing a lot of green at PDI/DreamWorks these days. Last week, employees at the Redwood City firm that created Shrek 2 were quietly celebrating the fact that their computer-generated movie had become the biggest animated hit in domestic box office history. ... Shrek 2 is the latest in a string of completely computer-generated movies — all created in the Bay Area — that are transforming the industry, which is moving away from hand-drawn, two-dimensional animation. The juxtaposition of artistic talent and high-tech expertise makes computer-generated animation a Northern California thing, said Andy Hendrickson, head of production technology for PDI/DreamWorks. He's a live example of that juxtaposition, having joined PDI in 1990 after majoring in computer science and minoring in film and animation. The 370-employee PDI/DreamWorks doesn't get the kind of publicity that Pixar generates. For one thing, Pixar already is a publicly traded company, required to report earnings every quarter. Also, Pixar's boss is a technology industry star — Steve Jobs, who is also chief executive of Cupertino's Apple Computer Inc.” (The story neglects to discuss Blue Sky Studios, producer of Ice Age, perhaps because it is based in the suburbs of New York City and not in the Bay Area.) And if you're into numbers, then check out this other San Francisco Chronicle piece, which notes, “In all, the equivalent of about 10 million computer hours was needed to process the 20 terabytes worth of data that went into the one-hour, 45-minute Shrek 2 movie, while the original Shrek needed only about one-fourth of that, said Andy Hendrickson, PDI/DreamWorks' head of technology.”

Animé Goes Live
Eriko Sato in Cutie HoneyTime Magazine has this story that discusses “why [live-action] remakes of classic cartoons are booming” on the big screen in Japan. It concludes that, “Some cite nostalgia, others a lack of imagination. 'People have special feelings for the older animé. They're simpler and more innocent,' says Cutie Honey star [Eriko] Sato, a longtime fan of the heroine she plays. Her director, Anno, takes a crankier view. 'Japanese people can't grow up,' he says. 'When they're not reading comics and watching cartoons, they go to see movies about cartoon characters. It's sad.' Whatever the reason, there's no denying the needs of a nation of comic-book nerds — and with a legion of superheroes waiting in the wings, it's a good bet that more of them will be making the leap to real life.” Other films it discussed include Casshern, Devilman and Ninja Hattori-kun (Hattori the Ninja).

Little Voice
Nancy CartwrightThe Scotsman has this lengthy profile of Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, which notes that “Cartwright definitely wants to meet the world. A one-woman stage show called My Life as a Ten-Year-Old Boy is coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and there’s already talk of a transfer to London’s West End. Later, when I ask her what she wants to be doing ten years from now, she says this show rather than The Simpsons. This could be an acknowledgment of the fact that not even the world’s most famous dysfunctional, four-fingered, overbiting, yellow family can go on forever. Or maybe it is her declaring, 'I’m Nancy Cartwright — who the hell are you?' 'You’ve got it,' says the 46-year-old, serving up home-made lemonade. 'I’m saying, ‘Hello, I’m not just a voice — there’s more to me than meets the ear.’ I’ve been wanting to do this kind of show since I was 16.' But her reasons for doing it now do not appear exclusively artistic. After freeing herself from an unhappy marriage, this 'brand-new single mom' is using live performance to exorcise a few demons, and to challenge herself.”

In Brief: 'Pride,' Disney Orlando Timeline.
Andrew Ryan has this review in The Toronto Globe and Mail of the live-action/animated Pride, which says, “First television gave us a talking horse (Mr. Ed), then a talking roadster (My Mother the Car) and most recently a talking infant (Baby Bob). Now we have talking lions. Where does this madness end? The new movie Pride ... is a treacly affair about a group, or pride, of precocious lions capable of holding extended conversations, just like real people. These particular lions even have lovely and civilized British accents. But the BBC/A&E co-production is unnerving and unpleasant. Although it's clearly aimed at a family viewership, it still manages to be offensive.” ... The Orlando Sentinel has this timeline of Disney's Orlando studio, from its opening in May 1989, when it had 70 employees and was “part of a tour in the Disney-MGM Studios theme park” to March 19 of this year, when “Disney's Orlando animators collect their final checks and clean out their desks.

June 20, 2004
In Brief: 'Pride' & Archbishop 'May Star in Simpsons'
Rowan WilliamsMichael R. Farkash in The Hollywood Reporter has this review of Pride, a TV movie co-produced by BBC, A&E Television and ProSieben. He calls it, “A visually inventive docudrama about lions [that] mixes animation and live action, with stars voicing the characters of the big cats. The problem is, Pride is less than the sum of its parts — it's not a pure report on the life cycle of lions, instead offering an unsatisfying fictionalized story and invented dialogue that wander all over the place. ... Real lion activity is mixed with renderings of ani-lions, whose mouths move to voice the very human dialogue. The animation, from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, of lions making wisecracks or doing unlikely stunts, is designed to fool the eye with realistic computer images of the big cats.” ... BBC News reports, “Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams would look 'very seriously' at an invitation to appear on animated comedy The Simpsons. The Sunday Times reported the show's producers were poised to invite the head of the Church of England on to the animated show. Dr Williams has admitted he is a big fan of the show. 'We'd look at it very seriously - it would be a very interesting thing to do,' his spokesman told the BBC.” See also Reuters story.

June 19, 2004
An Interview with 'Kaena' Director Chris Delaporte
Kaena, la prophétieFilmjerk.com has this interview with Delaporte, which notes “When Kaena: The Prophecy [Kaena, la prophétie] opens in America later this month, it may just look like another animated science-fiction movie, but in actuality, it is France’s first computer animated feature film.”Asked how it differs from Final Fantasy, he say, “I started this project before I ever heard about Final Fantasy, so I was very disappointed when I learned that it would be released before mine. The big difference is that mine isn’t photo-realistic. If you try to do Photorealistic humans and universes, you are always compared to the reality. People are just looking at your movie and tying to see what is lacking in being realistic. I tried to find a style that did not compete with reality. The other thing is my story is more of a science fiction tale than a movie; it’s more like poetry. It has charms of its own, which is very different from what Final Fantasy did. They tried to match exactly the camera movements of live action too much, because people just compare that and they realize that the actors aren’t as good as live actors.”

At Shrek and Call
The Age has this interview with Shrek 2 producer David Lipman. It notes, “Few films can receive a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and still have an audience of 10-year-olds in hysterics. 'It's not by design,' laughs producer David Lipman, sitting in a Melbourne hotel room. 'We're not about making a critically successful movie or entertaining 10-year-olds. It's a bunch of adults making these movies. We're looking to entertain ourselves, as much as the kids.' ... As in the original ... Shrek 2 again plunders fairytales, from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood, for laughs. 'Everyone has experienced them, everyone read them as a kid and used to watch the Disney versions,' Lipman says, 'It wasn't so much that we were attacking Disney, but it was because your recollection of Pinocchio was a Disney movie, but Disney didn't write or invent Pinocchio. They were legacy characters at Disney but they existed prior to Disney exploiting them so they are now part of the public domain. It wasn't the original intention (to parody Disney), but it was a fun byproduct.' ”

What Are You Looking At?
Jennifer Saunders in Shrek 2The Guardian has this profile of actress Jennifer Saunders, the voice of Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2, who is best known for writing and starring in the popular Absolutely Fabulous TV show. “Saunders ... reckons an animated film has great advantages. 'My part only took four days to record, spread over a year. Four days' work a year? Excellent! You know, being in a film like this — if you could do it as a career — I think it would be as perfect as it could be, because you get all these perks, which is very nice, but you don't have to do any of that other, you know, filming.' She laughs. 'You're just an ingredient. And no one's going to say, 'That movie didn't work because Jennifer Saunders' voice wasn't good.' It's so completely liberating! It's lovely. I've no responsibility. This job really has been one of my favourite jobs in the world. No one's looking at you.' ... Blonde and languid in understated linen, Saunders, 46, appears an entirely believable film star. Her voice barely rises above a murmur except when she laughs, in great rolls of amusement, largely directed at the peculiar wonders of the movie industry. She must have been the obvious choice for the producers of Shrek 2, for this ambiguous sensibility is the very essence of the film — a Hollywood send-up of Hollywood.”

Sci-fi Ambassador to the Voice of a Cow — All in a Dame's Work
The Scotsman has this interview with Dame Judi Dench, which touches on her work on Disney's Home on the Range, where “She gives voice to Mrs Calloway, a cow, alongside fellow ruminants Roseanne Barr and Jennifer Tilly. Providing cartoon voices (she also did ballet teacher Miss Lily in Angelina Ballerina for TV) is not as easy as some might think, she says. 'Because they film me all the time, I must have grown to look like her, or she must look like me,' she says. 'The process is weird — you are in this booth, and you have to do a line like ‘Ohhh, there goes Slim’ as many times as you can possibly do, until you are exhausted — and then two weeks later you are back in the booth and they are asking can you do that same line again. It’s all about three cows who go on an adventure.'”

Religious Satire of 'South Park'
South ParkMark I. Pinsky in The Orlando Sentinel writes, “Jesus has been battling Satan for a long time, but never like this: head-to-head in a boxing ring. On this very un-biblical television show, Jesus is so overmatched that he triumphs only because the devil takes a dive. The program is South Park, the animated series that is one of the most unlikely -- and unsettling -- intersections of faith and entertainment ever created. In a year in which evangelical blockbusters such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the Left Behind novels have raised reverence a notch, South Park chugs along in its eighth extremely irreverent season on Comedy Central. The show continues to be a huge hit with viewers in the 18-to-34 range. Yet South Park's religious content has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream, perhaps because few Christians watch it and because its satire is so outrageous that it isn't taken seriously. Consequently, there has been little backlash.”

One Frame at a Time
Grey AvenueTom Ryan has this preview in The Age of films being shown at The Melbourne International Animation Festival. He notes, “[Harvie Krumpet] aside, the best of the Australian contributions I've seen is RMIT student Eugene Foo's stunning Grey Avenue (2003) [pictured]. Against a background that's alive with increasingly bizarre happenings, a boy wearing a walkman strolls along a street, immersed in the music he's listening to, oblivious to the wonders happening around him. He's in colour, his surroundings are in stark black and white, and the sense of the absurd and the grotesque that pervades the film makes it reminiscent of the work of famous Polish animator Jan Lenica. A simple but brilliantly conceived meditation on a humanity turned in on itself. Almost as striking is the six-minute 2003 French short Louis, directed by Nicolas Bruchet, Olivier Barre and Samuel Devynck. ... A brilliantly economical depiction of the world we take for granted.”

The Graphic Portrayal of a Success Story
SproutThe Hindu has this interview with Vanitha Rangaraju Ramanan, who was lighting technical director for PDI/DreamWorks on Shrek and the three-minute short, Sprout (pictured), a during a visit back to India. Inspired by Toy Story, she studied computer simulation at the University of Texas, Austin, taking an internship at ILM before ending up at PDI. She now has plans to make her own short film. “Ms. Vanitha perhaps was lucky to follow her dream [in] California. ... The computer animation scenario in India might not be that heartening for the budding talents. According to her, India is not into animation as much as even countries such as Korea and Philippines are, though Indians do a lot of outsourcing work for foreign countries. 'In India, though we do have a lot of material in book form, the medium of animation does not have the `blessing' of the public. In countries such as Canada, there are film boards meant for the promotion of animated movies.' Ms. Vanitha says that India has much scope for animation with its abundance in number of animated characters and texts available, such as the Amar Chitra Katha.”

In Brief: Shrek 2's Giant Start, Father's Day Present & Internet Campaign Ads
FatherhoodThe Melbourne Herald Sun reports, “Monster movie Shrek 2 has earned more money on its opening day than any animated film in Australian cinema history. ... Shrek 2 took a massive $1,730,695 [US$1,180,159] on Thursday, well ahead of the previous record-holder, Monsters Inc ($1,032,860 [US$704,306]), Finding Nemo ($950,779 [US$648,335]) and the first Shrek, which took $335,000 [US$228,436] on its opening day in 2001.” ... Contrary to some of the previous lukewarm reviews, Rob Owen in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has nothing but praise for Fatherhood (pictured), Bill Cosby's new animated series. He says, “Created and executive-produced by Cosby and Charles Kipps (Little Bill, The Cosby Mysteries), who wrote Sunday’s premiere, Fatherhood comes off as sort of an animated version of The Cosby Show, depicting gentle but meaningful life lessons in ways both funny and completely free from the coarseness that pervades so much of prime time.” ... The Associated Press reports (also here), “A campaign to compel the vice president's lesbian daughter to oppose a proposed ban on gay marriage is launching its first Internet ad on Monday. A series of simply animated cartoon panels features stick figures of Mary Cheney and Vice President Dick Cheney. One image reads, 'Dick's daughter sold out to help Dick run again.'” ... WorldNetDaily notes, as a sort of reply to the Republicans online Kerryopoly game, “the Democrats have entered the Internet game arena with a Flash animation feature that has a donkey kicking President Bush out of the White House.”

June 18, 2004
This Family Was Really Messed Up
Michael EisnerThe Los Angeles Times has this behind-the-scenes story about Disney's purchase of the struggling Fox Family Channel (now ABC Family Channel). It notes, “The year was 2001, and [Michael] Eisner was under pressure to bulk up Disney, much as his competitors had done through mergers and acquisitions. America Online was now the owner of Time Warner. Media giant Viacom had gobbled up CBS, along with some cable channels. Everyone but Disney, it seemed, was in the hunt. ... But Eisner thought he finally had found a plum, and he was determined to snatch it at the luxurious Sun Valley confab. ... Eisner left the mountain summit with an ailing cable channel called Fox Family, along with some foreign assets, for which he agreed to pay $5.3 billion. The negotiations lasted less than an hour. One of the beneficiaries, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, would later kick himself. He told associates that Eisner was so eager he might have paid a billion more.” Apparently, Eisner had asked Murdoch and partner Haim Saban “to name a price that would shut out potential competitors .... Smelling desperation, Murdoch and Saban said they wanted $5.5 billion, far above the approximately $3-billion value Murdoch's own bankers had privately placed on the asset.” See also the report on this story in Ha'aretz, which adds, “One might guess that [ex-Disney board member Stanley] Gold is one of the people behind the stories, who with his patron, Roy Disney, is determined to prove that Eisner is out of steam, that he's nothing but a burden on Disney, and that he should go.”

Steve Jobs
The Guardian has this profile of Jobs, who was in the UK to help launch Apple's iTunes digital music store in London. It notes, “What was later hailed as Jobs' second coming started with his involvement in Pixar, the animation company he bought from the Star Wars director, George Lucas, and renamed. The hit movie Toy Story instantly established it as one of the key players in Hollywood, a success only amplified last year with the release of Finding Nemo. Pixar made Jobs a billionaire. But more significantly his triumph there also reminded people of his ability to divine the technological future. Apple, which was by then starting to taste stale, if not exactly rotting, asked him to return. He came back in 1997 and within a year the ailing company was once more posting handsome profits.”

In Brief: Wal-Mart's Move, 'Sanmao' Digitalized, Turner's Animation Head, Donald Duck, 'Jump to Japan,' & 'Spongebob' Writer
Donald Duck
According to The Financial Times, “Shares in Hit Entertainment yesterday plunged 28 per cent after the animation group behind Bob the Builder and Barney the Dinosaur issued its first profit warning. Hit shares fell 83p to 210p [$US1.52 to $3.85] after Wal-Mart, the US mass market retailer, told the company that it was cutting shelf space for home entertainment products — a mainstay of Hit's sales. Wal-Mart's decision is also expected to affect other producers of children's videos including Walt Disney, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers. ... Xinhua notes, “Not only are classic fairy tales evolving and taking to the stage, but so are old cartoon characters. Just like Tintin is to western cartoon lovers, Chinese cartoon character Sanmao, a wretched boy with only three thin locks of hair, has entertained the Chinese masses for more than half a century. The drama stage version of Sanmao stories will be here before you know it. But the big challenge is that actors on stage will be performing with 3D animated ones, Wednesday's cctv.com reported.” ... C21 Media reports, “Turner Broadcasting has appointed Mark Lazarus, current president of the entertainment group, as president of the company's animation division, which houses the Cartoon Network channel and toon studios. ... With Lazarus now running two divisions, there is clear potential for collaboration between the animation and entertainment businesses. 'When the opportunity is right, we could share resources,' Lazarus said. 'There could be an opportunity to tap into the expertise we have at Cartoon to see what we're going to do with TBS in the late-night hours.'” ... E! Online reports, “The wacky quacker [Donald Duck], who just celebrated his 70th birthday, is just one of the celebs picked to receive a star on the well-traveled Hollywood [Walk of Fame] next year — and the only 'toon.” ... The Clinton (Iowa) Herald has this report on the Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture through Popular Art exhibit that is opening at the Felix Adler Children's Discovery Center, which “will introduce visitors to Japanese culture through hands-on activities based on the art forms of animation, manga (comics), woodblock prints and traditional scrolls. [And where] children can hop on the magical Cat Bus from the film My Neighbor Totoro.” (See also the lengthier Quad-City Times story.) ... Pioneer Press Online has this report on a visit by Peter Burns, who helped write for the first 26 episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, to“ a group of 75 seventh-grade students at Emerson Middle School in Niles” Illinois, where his sister teaches. “The emphasis of Burns' presentation was on the writing process, which begins with a thesis or story idea, followed by brainstorming and outlining.”

June 17, 2004
Bill Knows Best
FatherhoodNew York Newsday has this review by Diane Werts of Fatherhood, the new series based on Bill Cosby's family stories, which will have its premiere on Father's Day this Sunday before airing on Nick at Night on Tuesdays. She says, “There's something warmly charming about the comedic tales of family foibles that Bill Cosby has been telling for 40 years in both stand-up and sitcom form. They pinpoint the smallest elements of behavior that loom largest in our relationships. But it isn't just their insight that's appealing. Cosby's idiosyncratic delivery is an enormous reason why his stories maintain their popularity. That voice is hard to hear, however, in his new Nick at Nite cartoon creation.” ... Adam Buckman in The New York Post notes, “Not only does the scenario resemble the The Cosby Show, but Fatherhood explores the same territory. Both shows reflect Cosby's belief that the firm involvement of parents in their childrens' lives will help the kids develop into well-adjusted adults. It's a worthwhile enough idea, even if it doesn't always work out that way. You can't fault Cosby for promoting such a noble cause, even if he is occasionally misunderstood.” The latter comment reflects the controversy over Cosby's remarks at a recent “NAACP-sponsored event commemorating the 50th anniversary of school desegregation.”

In Fine Fettle
National Egg Coordination Committee commercialThe Hindu Business Line has this story (also here) about the ad campaign devised by Ogilvy & Mather Advertising on behalf of India's National Egg Coordination Committee “to promote the consumption of chicken,” which included a “40-second TV commercial ... shot by Sumantro Ghoshal of Equinox films,” with animation by animation Animagic India. The campaign was done in the wake of the “January 2004 ... outbreak of Bird Flu in some Asian countries. Consumption of chicken here dropped by 30-40 per cent. The industry lost more than Rs 1,000 crore [though] not a single case of bird flu was reported in India. ... The storyline ... revolves around a visibly flummoxed animated rooster being charged with spreading the disease, and actor Sanjay Dutt posing as the chicken's advocate coming to its rescue. He argues for the Indian chicken, interspersing mention of its virtues with popular lines from Munnabhai MBBS, his recent hit movie. The move ends with the tagline Indian chicken fitam fit.”

Local Animation Ready to Leap Ahead
OseamThe Korea Times reports, “'I hope this will help change local moviegoers’ negative preconceptions about domestic animation films,' Lee Jung-ho, producer of the animated feature Oseam, said after his film won the top prize in the Annecy International Animation Festival in France last Saturday. As Lee implied in his remark, local animation films are often neglected by the domestic audience when released at theaters. Despite being commercially unsuccessful in the local market, however, many have recently been received well internationally. ... 'The South Korean animation industry is no longer considered just as the largest market in the world for original equipment manufacture (OEM),' Lee Byung-heon, program director of the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival, said. 'Now many talented people are devoting themselves to creating interesting animations and improving their quality.'”

Pretty in Punk
Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in SpaceThe Toronto Eye Weekly has this review by Jason Anderson of Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space who says it is, “Bizarre even by the standards of Japanese popular culture, this anime feature is nothing if not unique. (Other relevant adjectives would be cryptic, dazzling and 'whatdafuck?') Since Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space first escaped from Japan early last year (it debuted in Toronto at the Images Festival in 2003), it has created widespread befuddlement and a clutch of admirers who don't care that the story makes so little sense, the subtitles may as well be in Sumerian. This cult will make more glassy-eyed converts when Tamala 2010 returns to town for a run at the Royal.”

Little Lucre to Be Found in Lending Voice to a Project
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “Some of the biggest names in Hollywood now lend their voices to animated characters, but Australian voice actors say the local pay rates are nothing to shout about.” Rachel King, who has worked on such shows as Old Tom and Fairytale Police Department says, “It's nothing like what you hear about people getting in the States. Like all acting work in Australia, everyone just gets paid pretty standard rates and I don't think anyone's making an absolute fortune. I haven't heard of any productions in Australia where anyone's commanding premium fees.” The story notes, “For a lead role in a television program, the minimum rate of pay is $739.02 a week. It can rise to $1708.99 for recording five episodes in a week. Actors can earn extra cash if the show is repeated.”

Why 3-D Animation Rules the Day
On the opening day of Shrek 2 in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald has this piece on why “fully animated feature film, usually pitched at families, [is] pulling such crowds. ... Illawarra animation producer Tim Brooke-Hunt, who has worked on 2D animations, including Blinky Bill, believes 3D has played a big part in the revival of the animated feature. 'We know that 2D is beautiful and no one proved that better than Disney,' he says. 'But I think it [3D] makes it more real.' The downside is that the market is now 3D-oriented, and producers now feel pressured to make all their films in 3D.” Also, “A generation of people has grown up with animation software, and expresses itself creatively through it. 'When we used to have ordinary Bugs-Bunny style animation, it had to be sent to factories. Now animation can be made by individuals,' Avrill Stark, an executive producer at the Sydney production house Ambience Entertainment says. '3D computer animation is being made by one to two people in their bedrooms, and they're getting onto TV and film festivals.' ... hence, more animation is being produced.”

White Rodent with a Mission
Danger Mouse video coverMichael Bird and Alex Greenwood in ak13 have this review of the video of “Danger Mouse, a Cosgrove Hall Production — one of the first British cartoons to succeed in America [in which a] dashing white mouse with an eye-patch, and a trusted hamster sidekick, [save] the world from wrongdoing and wickedness. ... At heart, Danger Mouse is a surreal reflection of the Cold War battle against authoritarian and capitalist forces in the 20th century. The series suggests that Britain is stuck in-between Stalinist authoritarianism on one side and American hyper-capitalism on the other — a situation that is made all the more difficult when these sides work with each other to destroy Britain's unique culture, typified in Danger Mouse by tea-drinking, large statues and stately English houses.”

No Eeediott!
John KricfalusiJohn Kricfalusi is the subject of another interview, this time in The Age, in conjunction with his Melbourne International Animation Festival retrospective. It begins, “Cartoon maverick John Kricfalusi has a two-word explanation for why he cannot attend the retrospective of his work being held at the upcoming Melbourne International Animation Festival: 'Stimpy's pregnant.' As the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, the animated series that obliterated the rules governing the genre and paved the way for a successful generation of cel-based misfits, Kricfalusi is the proud father overseeing post-production on an episode in which his dim-witted cat somehow gave birth. He is, to say the least, pleased with the unlikely development. 'It's a groundbreaking event. As far as I know this will be the first cartoon to depict a live animation birth in full detail,' promises Kricfalusi, speaking from his Los Angeles home but sounding rather more like an old-fashioned carnival barker spruiking his sideshow act.”

Our First Filmmakers
New Straits Times has this story about the “early days of documentary filmmaking and animation [in Malaysia] which began soon after the Second World War.” It includes an interview with animation director Hassan Muthalib, who is currently writing History of Malaysian Animation, and who “recently presented a paper on the history and development of animation in Malaysia at the National Art Gallery, as part of an exhibition called Necessary Distractions: From Ukiyo-E To Anime.” Interestingly, according to Hassan, both documentary filmmaking and animation were introduced in Malaya when the Malayan Film Unit (now Filem Negara), a government documentary film unit, was set up by the British in 1946. 'The first trainer and art director of the unit was Gillie Potter, a 22-year-old combat cameraman, a member of the British Army Film Unit which covered Lord Louis Mountbatten's Burma campaign in 1944. 'Working with the unit, Potter was responsible for preparing and shooting maps. He also learnt to operate the Bell and Howell animation camera in Kandy, Ceylon. Potter also shot the surrender of the Japanese in Singapore in 1945,' he said.”

In Brief: Humanitas Finalists, Disney's Olive Branch
Reuters has this report on the finalists in this year's Humanitas Awards, which “honors writers whose work 'honestly explores the complexities of the human experience and sheds light on the positive values of life.'” Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds are in the running for their work on Finding Nemo in the feature film category, while “Chris Nee received two nominations for Nickelodeon's Little Bill in the children's animation category .... Nee was mentioned for the episodes A Ramp for Monty and I Can Sign — The Sign for Friend. Peter K. Hirsch also was cited for the Big Horns George episode of PBS' Arthur. ... According to The Times, The Walt Disney Company has held out an olive branch to Pixar ... in the hope that the two might resume talks over a lucrative distribution deal. Bob Iger, the president and chief operating officer of Disney, told The Times that the media conglomerate would like to continue distributing films for Pixar when an existing deal, which has generated more than $2.5 billion (£1.4 billion) in box office receipts, ends next year.”

June 16, 2004
Director Andrew Adamson on Shrek 2 and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Shrek 2 co-director Andrew AdamsonThe New Zealand Herald has this interview with Auckland native Andrew Anderson who has returned home to direct a new live-action version of the C.S. Lewis book. Asked if “the novelty of actually having real-live actors worn off yet?,” he says, “You have actors in animation — it's just that you work with them separately. Strangely enough it's similar but the process is very different. You are still focusing on all the same things — story and performance. With the actors you have got to work from your gut more. In live action you don't get as many chances. Having come from live-action visual effects, I like that energy and excitement of making decisions on the spot that you have to stick with. Very often even in animation what I will often do is write down what my initial gut instincts are because a year from then looking at a sequence and wondering why it's not working I'll go back and see what I liked about it at the beginning — it's usually right.”

If IT Drives BPO, Human Ware Holds The Key To Animation
The Financial Express has the second part of Animation Bridge CEO Biren Ghose's “on the similarities and differences between animation and BPO [business process outsourcing].” He notes, “I’m constantly being told by all and sundry as to how easy animation must be with the new software and hardware. But, we know that the truth is quite far from that 'magic wand' theory. Anyone selling the software tools will be able to produce a demo reel made in Los Angeles or London or Tokyo. But, it will be a different story, if they are asked to work with our talent on fresh material and produce that same sample efficiently. So, if it’s not technology and it’s not software tools, what is it that holds the key to animation work? The most impressive element in animation is still 'human ware' — it’s the people that make the show. Unlike in a classical BPO, where it is the processes and IT enablement that allows the geographic discontinuity, in animation, it is talent that creates the beneficial capabilities — the possibility of distribution of work across different geographies.”

Galleon Opens a Path to Hollywood
OggiesAccording to ic Birmingham.co.uk, “Stourbridge-based Galleon Holdings has announced the acquisition of a fifty per cent stake in Hollywood's newest animation studio. It is paying for the deal by issuing six million Galleon shares — at the current price worth £45,000 [US$82,480]. J Christopher Entertainment, who will also take a share in future Galleon projects, brings together a team of industry stalwarts including producers, directors, artists, scriptwriters and animators, led by ex-Disney producer Chris Henderson.” A C21 Media story estimates the purchase price for 50% share of Henderson's company at £60,000 ($110,000). It adds that, “Now JC Entertainment will work on extreme sports toon The Oggies [pictured] that Galleon launched at MipTV last March, to which Henderson was already attached as producer.”

Former Boilermaker Writes Pixar Movie, Remembers School
Finding NemoThe Purdue Exponent has this interview with Purdue alumnus Bob Peterson, the Oscar-nominated Finding Nemo scriptwriter. Peterson notes, “In Finding Nemo, he did the voice of Mr. Ray, Nemo’s teacher, and in Monsters, Inc., he did the voice of Roz, the dispatcher who loves paperwork. Peterson said he based the voice of Mr. Ray on a science teacher he had in high school in Dover, Ohio, 'who was a lunatic in a good way, and actually was a Purdue graduate.' Peterson described it as one of his favorite classes. Inspiration for Roz came from 'channeling' all the lunch ladies Peterson has ever known. As part of Peterson’s job, he and others at Pixar provide temporary voices for characters before actors are hired to do the voices. If the person doing the temporary voice makes the lines funny, he or she usually gets the job. For example, Crush, the turtle in Nemo, is voiced by the director, [Andrew] Stanton. 'We don’t need Brad Pitt,' said Peterson. 'Just whatever works.'”

Classic-fuelled Cartoonist Enjoys the Last Laugh
Ren &  StimpyThe Australian has this interview with Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi on the occasion of an upcoming Melbourne International Animation Festival retrospective of his work. “Speaking from his Ottawa bunker, where he rules like a 'benevolent dictator' over his animation studio, Spumco, Kricfalusi recalls the 1980s with trademark candour. 'At the time cartoons sucked, big time,' he says. 'I was working on shows like He-Man and Smurfs, god-awful crap. ... We all hated where we were working and we all wanted to do Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry — the classics. But the networks thought those cartoons were too violent, too exciting, too much fun, too funny! You couldn't have slapstick any more, they called it violence.' Things have improved in the animation industry but today's cartoons still suck, big time. 'Very few people in the business seem to make cartoons that are proud of being cartoons,' Kricfalusi says. 'Betty Boop, Popeye, Bugs Bunny — they're not ashamed of being cartoons. Most animations these days seem like they're striving for something more respected. There's no one going balls-out saying let's just make pure entertainment.'”

Presidential Grad
The San Diego Union Tribune has this profile of Stan Prokopenko, a 17-year-old Mt. Carmel High School senior who has design a mural for Sunset Hills Elementary in Rancho Peñasquitos and created a short animated video “to be shown on several American Airlines flights in August. ... His award-winning 3-D animated video, A Game of Pool, shows a rack of cueballs coming to life with stripes taking on the solids. Stan said he likes to tell friends he got the inspiration for the video after his parents said they might buy a pool table. When they didn't buy one, the story goes, he decided to create his own pool table through animation, but that isn't true, Stan said of the fictionalized account.”

June 15, 2004
Student Oscars
Rex Steele: Nazi SmasherThe Provo (Utah) Daily Herald proudly notes, “An animated short film created by Brigham Young University animators was honored Sunday night for the second time in four months, this time by the same organization that bestows the Academy Awards. Craig Van Dyke, who produced and directed Lemmings, received the bronze level of the Student Academy Award in the animation category at a ceremony for the short film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.” See also Associated Press story. ... For a list of all the Student Oscar winners, check out the Student Oscar site. The Gold Medal winner was Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher (pictured) by Alexander Woo of New York University and the Silver Medal winner was Rock the World, by Sukwon Shin of the School of Visual Arts, New York.

Geisters: Fractions of the Earth, Vol. 1
Geisters: Fractions of the Earth" vol. 1, coverEric Henrickson in The Detroit News has this review of the video release of five episodes of the Japanese Geisters: Fractions of the Earth, “a sci-fi story saved from its seen-it-before story by a good mix of characters. ... it's a fairly standard post-apocalyptic sci-fi story — lots of monsters, lots of shooting. What makes it rise above its origins is the character mix. The five Geisters are an interesting lot, and the flashbacks help cement each one's character to help make them more individual. Unfortunately, the animation could use a little help. The heavy use of CGI doesn't blend well with the 2D animation. The monsters and some of the ship sequences are done with computers. The Siliconians, especially, look out of place with a sort of airbrushed quality that just doesn't meld.”

In Brief: Iger Enters Battle, Moving Picture Company, I Like Ike & Wonder Kids
According to World Leisure News, “The president and chief operating officer of the Walt Disney Company has, for the first time, expressed an interest in taking over control of the group from chief executive Michael Eisner. In an interview with The [London] Times, Iger said the company’s board was “aggressively dealing with the subject of succession” and that Iger saw himself as a ‘prime contender’ to assume the top job. Iger added: 'I would like to succeed Michael [Eisner]. Looking at internal and external candidates, I consider myself to be in the running so I think it’s fair to say that the subject of succession is a fairly important one for me.'” ... Media Week has this item speculating on possible buyers for British channel “ITV's post-production and digital effects business, Moving Picture Company, [including] Technicolor, Deluxe or Ascent Media.” ... PBS's News Hour, in this story on the current presidential ad campaign, notes, “One of the first [campaign] ads appeared in 1952 with Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower's animated commercial, I Like Ike, produced by the Disney Studio. Eisenhower reached over 19 million TV viewers, while his opponent endured arduous campaign tours to meet voters. Eisenhower won the election by a landslide.” ... The Calcutta Telegraph reports, “On Saturday, the four-day Children’s Animation Workshop came to an end at the recently-inaugurated Toonz Webel Academy — jointly set up by Webel and Toonz Animation India. The workshop, with eight talented kids and their bright ideas, has been an annual Toonz event since 2001, but was held for the first time this year in Bengal.” It goes on to give details of the events and its history.

June 14, 2004
Roh Congratulates 'Oseam' for Annecy Prize & Other Winners
Lorenzo
The Korea Times says, “[South Korean] President Roh Moo-hyun sent a word of congratulations yesterday to the makers of Oseam for winning the grand prize at a prestigious animation festival in France. Directed by Sung Baek-yop, the animation was given the Cristal D'Annecy [for Best Feature Film] over the weekend at the Annecy International Animation Festival, considered the top international event for animation.” ... Joongang Ilbo, in also reporting on the award notes, “When Oseam first opened in Korea last year, it did not receive much fanfare, despite much critical acclaim. After a few weeks on screen, the animation was forced to retreat from theaters, selling only 100,000 tickets. Efforts to move the film beyond its enthusiastic cult following weren't successful either. ... It's the second Korean animated film to receive the grand prize after My Beautiful Girl, Mari, directed by Lee Seong-kang, won in 2002. ... The Annecy site has a complete list of this year's winners, which also includes Mike Gabriel's Lorenzo (USA) [pictured], won the a Cristal for Best Short and Richard Goleszowski's Cats or Dogs? episode of Aardman's Creature Comforts (UK) won the Cristal for Best Television Production.

To the Drawing Board
Time Asia has this story about Imagi, the Hong Kong-based animation studio that worked on Father of the Pride, the new primetme TV series from DreamWorks. “The company traces its roots to Boto International, one of the world's largest manufacturers of artificial Christmas trees, which was founded by [founder Francis] Kao's father, Michael Kao. The junior Kao joined the firm after graduating from Sacramento State University in California in 1998, and his first job was to produce an animated website for the company. Kao, a longtime fan of cartoons, was fascinated by the animators he met and persuaded his father to set up a cartoon unit. In April 2001, Kao went to a television programming conference in Cannes with six minutes of a cartoon, only half of it done in color, to sell to television networks. No one showed any interest, partly because Kao didn't arrange any meetings before getting on the plane. 'We were there with a booth,' Kao laughs, 'but I was just drinking beer with the animators.' Six months later he went back with a full episode, and sold the show, a time-traveling, robots-meet-dinosaurs adventure, to the French television network m6.”

The Chronicles of Riddick — Dark Fury
The Chronicles of Riddick — Dark Fury DVD coverComingsoon.net has this review by Scott Chitwood of the DVD of Peter Chung's 35 minute film, claiming, “If you enjoyed The Animatrix, then Dark Fury is going to be right up your alley. ... It's an anime sequel to the motion picture. It neatly bridges the gap between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. It picks up right where the first film left off, then it fills in backstory for the new summer film. ... Like the Riddick films, this movie features a healthy mix of sci-fi and action adventure. The opening battle in the film is spectacular. ... he animation is an interesting mix of CG and traditional 2-D animation. It blends well together though the supposedly outdated 2-D animation frequently upstages the CG. The character designs are a little stylistic while still making the main characters recognizable. The designs for the ships, costumes, and backgrounds are also quite impressive and very much in the exotic styles of the films.”

University Course Focuses on Animation
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Monkey D. Luffy, Akira and Pikachu are coming to academia. These butt-kicking, world-saving, freakishly agile animation heroes will become windows into the heart of Japanese culture and the subject of a new course at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 'Most people stop reading comic books when they're 6 years old,' said professor Ron Morse, who will teach the anime class this fall as part of the Asian studies program. 'It's more than childish stuff. It's a serious sociological critique.' ... aside from big-breasted heroines and intergalactic travel, serious issues such as drug addiction, prostitution and murder make anime worth studying at a university level, Morse said. 'It deals with real life content. It speaks to the problems that young people are grappling with,' he said. 'It's come of age and the timing is right and there is no question that it speaks to the youth culture of America.'” The class is being funded by the Tokyo Foundation, who will fly in “some of Japan's premier anime artists, ... for a week and shuttle to anime clubs, colleges and high schools.”

Toyota Removes Peyote Scenes from Web Promotion
Scion 303 Caliber web commercialAdAge.com reports, “Toyota Motor Sales USA has edited a two-week-old online promotion to eliminate scenes that show a young man chewing peyote cactus and hallucinating. The original version of the Scion Webisode had a young man chewing peyote ... and then exhibiting the red eyes, malapropisms and hallucinations of a mescaline user. The hallucinations were incorporated as major part of the rest of the story's plot. Scion has now removed the peyote scene but the hallucinations remain. The move comes after AdAge.com queried the automaker about the propriety of including images of mescaline use in advertisements aimed at the young demographic specifically targeted by Scion marketing campaigns. ... The cartoons, called 303 Caliber, were launched two weeks ago on Scion's Web site (www.wanttC.com) to promote the Scion tC model.”

In Brief: Shrek 2': New King of Animated Films, Korean Animation, Harryhausen Audio, Meredith Holch
Shrek 2 poster
USA Today reports, “In just three weeks, Shrek 2 has become the biggest animated film ever, topping last year's Finding Nemo. [The film] took in an estimated $24 million over the weekend to reach $354 million. Nemo netted $339.7 million after seven months in theaters.” This makes the CGI comedy, which was directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon, the ninth highest grossing movie to date. See also DreamWorks' press release. ...New California Media, in reporting on the growing success of Korean films, notes “ADV, which helped to bring Japanese animation to western audiences, has agreed to distribute 30 Korean feature films on DVD throughout America, complete with English subtitles, a first for Korean home entertainment.” ... NPR has this audio of an interview from its Weekend Edition radio show with “stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen, the man responsible for such cinematic gems as the skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts and the big ape in Mighty Joe Young, [who] has a new book, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life.” ... Juneau (Alaska) Empire has this profile of Vermont animator Meredith Holch, who is in town as “guest artist for Juneau Dance Unlimited's 26th Annual Fine Arts Camp,” relating how she moved from puppetry to animation.

June 12-13, 2004
In Brief: 'Oseam' Gets Grand Prix, Schoolchildren Turn Filmmakers & Licensing Fair
Oseam
Chosun Ilbo reports, “The Korean animated film Oseam, produced by Mago 21, was awarded the Cristal for Best Feature (Grand Prix Annecy) in the Feature Films Competition at the 2004 International Festival of Animated Film at Annecy, which ended on Saturday (local time) in France. With this, Korea has received yet another splendid international award this year, following the movie Old Boy's Grand Prize of the Jury at the 57th Cannes Film Festival.... Webindia123.com has this story which begins, “It's an old complaint. Pacified kids glued to the idiot box watching mindless cartoons. But one person has decided to put the children's knowledge of animation to good use. Radha Menon says that overwhelming enthusiasm from the children led to the creation of the Children's Animation Workshop in 2001. The workshop is located in Webel Toonz Academy in Salt Lake in Kolkata.” ... NPR has this audio report from its All Things Considered show on a visit to “the International Licensing Fair in New York City to scout out the new animated characters that marketers want to sell to children.”

June 11, 2004
Downsizing a Unit Widens IDT's Quarterly Loss
The Newark Star Ledger reports, “IDT yesterday reported a loss of $76.8 million in the third quarter, largely because of charges related to the downsizing of a telecommunications unit that serves business customers. ... [A] highlight for the quarter was the first operating profit for IDT Entertainment, the company's collection of animation studios and film production facilities. The reason: the addition of recent acquisitions Anchor Bay Entertainment and Mainframe Entertainment to the unit's bottom line. ... In a separate announcement, the company said it had appointed a new chief operating officer for IDT Entertainment, John Hyde. It also acquired the right to distribute video and DVD versions of television programs such as 21 Jump Street and The Greatest American Hero.” See also the company's press release , which notes the acquisition during the third quarter of " DKP Effects , a 3-D animation and special effects production company” and that it “just consummated the acquisition of Manga Entertainment , one of the largest distributors of Japanese 'anime' outside of Asia.”

Taiwan Showcases its Talent for Animation
Mindscape by Hsieh Pei-wenThe Taipei Times has this report from the Annecy Animation Festival , which notes "The 40 year-old animation film festival is introducing animation films from Taiwan for the first time" in a program called Welcome Taiwan which is showing 14 films. “Among the films in the program are: Mindscape by Hsieh Pei-wen [pictured], Two Sides by Chiou Hsien-yuan and Crossing Boundaries by Su Zhi-ming. ... 'These works can be seen as the new hope of Taiwan's animation industry,' said Chen yi-ching, programmer of the Taiwan International Animation Festival . In the past, Taiwan's animation industry was only known for its manufacturing ability doing OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) works for Hollywood Studios .... In the past 10 years the Tainan National College of Arts and the National Taiwan University of Arts has fostered domestic talent and many artists at Welcome Taiwan come from the two schools.” However, it points out the program pales in comparison to the one showcasing Korean films, including 3 features and 47 shorts.

In Brief: Licensing, Fast Track in Wales, Serkis' Kong, Different Vocals, Doh! Tops Poll
Homer SimpsonReuters has this story on the Licensing 2004 International trade show, where “The owners of brand names -- from well-known characters like G.I. Joe and Care Bears to household names like Coca-Cola Co. and Campbell Soup or famous figures like Albert Einstein or Che Guevara — meet with manufacturers looking to buy the rights to use the brands on their products.” ... In reporting on a training initiative "backed by Education and Learning Wales (ELWa), ic NorthWales notes, "One of the most successful initiatives was a fast-track training course for Welsh animators developed by Skillset Cymru and media-training organisation Cyfle. The project saw five young cartoonists receiving training and six-month work placements. Employment in the Welsh animation industry has tripled in the past half century and estimated annual turnover has risen to ú7.5m [US$13.6m].” ... According to The Hollywood Reporter (also here), “Andy Serkis, the man behind the popular Gollum character from the Lord of the Rings films, is reuniting with the trilogy's Peter Jackson to become the man behind the monster in Universal Pictures' King Kong, the director's retelling of the 1933 classic. Like he did for Gollum, Serkis will provide motion capture reference for the character of Kong, who will eventually be realized as a completely CGI creature.” ... Empire Online notes, “In what looks like a growing trend at DreamWorks ... Shark Tale is to follow in the footsteps of Shrek 2 by using different voices for the same character depending on the territory. The piscean picture, out later this year, features a TV newsreader fish called Katie Current based on and voiced by the similarly alliterative US personality Katie Couric. Now the Aussies are to have their own equivalent talent on board, with presenter Tracy Grimshaw taking the vocal reigns for the Australian release.” ... According to Reuters, “Homer Simpson's emphatic exclamation 'Doh!' has topped a British poll [by Nuts Magazine] of favorite TV comedy catchphrases, easily beating an array of home-grown classics” by taking 34% of the vote. It adds that, “'Doh' has even found a home in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

June 10, 2004
Garfield: The Movie — More Reviews
Garfield: The MovieThe live-action film, whose CGI title character was animated under the supervision of Bill Kroyer, continues to get a less than stellar critical reception. A. O. Scott in The New York Times notes, “Garfield himself has the rubbery, two-and-a-half-dimensional look common to computer-animated creatures, but he moves in a convincingly obese-feline manner. The movie may lack the insight and nuance of the comic strip, but at least it is short.” ... Gene Seymour in New York Newsday complains, “Most of the budget seems to have gone toward making a bulging-eyed special effect seamlessly blend into the landscape. The money's well spent, but one would have liked Garfield's makers to have worked just as hard on the writing.” ... And Robert K. Elder in The Chicago Tribune says, “Garfield: The Movie feels like an 82-minute commercial for Garfield: The Brand, rather than dumb cinematic fun. If not for the fresh vocal talents of Bill Murray, Garfield: The Movie would be beating a dead cat. Instead, director Peter Hewitt (The Borrowers) simply pummels the final creative breath out of a comic-strip empire.”

Eisner's Salary Deal Will Be Told
The Associated Press reports (also here), “A Delaware judge has agreed to consider allowing Roy E. Disney to show other shareholders some documents that contain confidential deliberations of The Walt Disney Co. board on executive pay. [As part of Roy Disney's campaign to unseat CEO Michael Eisner,] he requested confidential documents, including minutes of discussions held by the board on compensation for the media company's top five executives in 2002 and 2003. The company furnished the material with the condition that it remain secret but agreed to allow Roy Disney to ask a court to unseal the documents in the future.” See also Dow Jones News Service story.

Acclaimed Animation Director Joins Vinton Studios
Henry Selick on the set of James and the Giant PeachAccording to The Portland Business Journal, Vinton Studios has named award-winning director/writer Henry Selick its supervising director. Vinton said Selick will play a key role as the animation studio launches an aggressive move into feature film development and production. Selick joined Vinton Studios on May 17 and will immediately direct the studio's first high-budget computer-generated short film titled Moongirl while also developing feature projects. Selick won numerous awards for his features James and the Giant Peach and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Selick's whose career has never got the commercial traction promised by the success of Nightmare Before Christmas, adds a bit of needed glamor to Vinton, which is trying to redefine itself in the wake of founder Will Vinton's dismissal last year. The story also notes, Selick “recently adapted Neil Gaiman's best-selling novel Coraline for Bill Mechanic's production company, Pandemonium, which he plans to direct. Selick has just completed his stint as animation director on the new Wes Anderson feature, The Life Aquatic, starring Bill Murray.” See also the Vinton press release.

In Brief: On Message, Cartoons Get Zapped & Elvis Meets the Future
Message to Man  International Documentary, Short and Animated Films Festival posterThe St Petersburg Times has this story noting, “The [14th] 'Message To Man' International Documentary, Short and Animated Films Festival kicks off at the Rodina cinema and Dom Kino on June 15 and runs through June 22 showcasing literally hundreds of films from around the globe. This year's special program includes Russian animation from 2001-2004, early films by British director Peter Greenaway and Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, as well as the best of European experimental films. ... AFP reports, “Parents may soon be able to stop their kids from watching too many trashy cartoons thanks to a minder for digital TV, the weekly New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue. The invention exploits the fact that animation has more fast-moving shapes than film or live television.” See also TVNZ report.” ... ABC Regional Online has this brief report on a touring exhibition which “tells the story of the making an animation series and is based on the Australian Children's Television Foundation's animated series, Li'l Elvis Jones & The Truckstoppers, which screens regularly on ABC TV.”

June 9, 2004
Garfield: The Movie
Garfield: The MovieReviews are starting to dribble in on the CGI animated/live-action comedy. David DiCerto of Catholic News Service says, “Fans of [Jim] Davis' comic strip may have mixed reactions to the movie. [Bill] Murray's voice provides the pitch-purrfect blend of sarcasm and slovenliness to the curmudgeonly cat, who, thanks to the magic of computer animation, closely resembles the cartoon. However, while the computer animation gives the film's Garfield the added advantage of three-dimensionality, the net result of the mediocre script is a much more one-dimensional character than the penned version.” ... Brian Orndorf in FilmJerk.com is a little less kind, noting, “If you’re a fan of Garfield, then I suggest you stay away from the fat cat’s big screen debut. Stripping away the essential cartoonish nature of the character and his world, and replacing it with a wheezy story and shameless product placement, this new Garfield feature might not immediately offend children who are unfamiliar with the feline, but for the already initiated, this movie is an insult.”

Taking Shrek to the Max
Jeffrey KatzenbergThe Sydney Morning Herald has this interview with DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, in which he admits “there were always plans to make four Shrek movies. 'We didn't have the guts to tell anybody when we started out,' says one of the most powerful studio bosses in Hollywood. 'We have two more chapters to tell. Not unlike Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. The difference is they did have the guts to make all three of them back-to-back-to-back.' ... Shortly before the Shrek 2 premiere, he confirmed that work on Shrek 3 has been proceeding for nine months and on Shrek 4 for three months, which will continue the series until 2009. 'Thirteen years,' says Katzenberg, a small, precise figure with a frantic work ethic. 'You think Peter Jackson went at it a long time.' Like the original Shrek and Pixar's Finding Nemo, the sequel confirms that the best animations have become smarter than just about anything else produced by Hollywood now. But there are still misfires and Katzenberg has been behind some of them,” referring of course to Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron.

Comcast Plans Network for Toddlers
According to The Wall Street Journal, “In a deal that would unite the biggest stars of the two-to-five-year-old set, Comcast Corp. is in advanced negotiations with the Public Broadcasting System, Sesame Street Workshop and HIT Entertainment to develop the first 24- hour network dedicated to preschool kids, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. [The commercial-free network] would have rights to Barney & Friends, Sesame Street, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine, among others. ... Comcast, PBS and the two programmers each would own stakes in the new digital network. But the biggest piece would go to Comcast, which has made owning content a major priority.” Earlier this year, Comcast launched an unsuccessful bid to take over Disney as part of this drive.

Disney's Smoking Gun No One Will Ever See
Emperor's New GrooveFox News has this has belated look (also here) by Roger Friedman at Trudie Styler and John-Paul Davidson's 2002 little-seen documentary The Sweatbox, about the making of Disney's Emperor's New Groove. It begins, “I read with interest the story in yesterday's New York Times about Disney considering selling Miramax back to the Weinstein brothers. Without Miramax and Steve Jobs' Pixar, which has expressed a desire to leave Disney, I'm not sure what the Mouse House would have left. Certainly it wouldn't be a future for animated films. ... [Emperor's New Groove] took a long and circuitous course, starting out as a serious minded cartoon called The Kingdom of the Sun directed by ... Roger Allers and featuring several songs by Sting. Styler, Sting's wife and a movie producer, got permission to document the development of the film. What she and partner Davidson didn't bargain on was the entire project capsizing and being rebuilt not once but twice until it had a new director, cast and point of view. By then Sting's participation had been significantly whittled down, millions had been flushed down the toilet and no one at Disney — particularly the subsequently departed exec Peter Schneider — seemed to have an idea of what they were doing or why they were doing it.”

Wizards with No Soul
Day After TomorrowArmond White in New York Press has this rant on the use special effects which starts by asking, “How gullible are we that pundits write about the global warming theme of The Day After Tomorrow and critics take this latest Roland Emmerich fiasco seriously? Any kid could tell you the film has nothing to do with the upcoming presidential election; it's all about the digital. That nifty scene of the Hollywood sign being demolished letter by letter and the surrealist overhead shot of four tornado funnel clouds drilling into the Los Angeles cityscape were just convenient for Fox's pseudo-political promotional campaign. ... This period of special effects dominance has taken place just when moviegoers feel more sophisticated. Fact is, they're more credulous than ever.” As for Shrek 2, he says, “A sensitive viewer cringes at the jerky, hobbled movements of creatures who are meant to be enchanting. They're so uncinematic, they resemble bad marionettes. No strings visible, yet they incessantly utter tongue-in-cheek dialogue and third-rate pop song covers — a true cultural fiasco.”

Animation Business Quite Different From A Typical BPO
The first of a two-part piece by Biren Ghose, CEO, Animation Bridge, in The Financial Express notes, “Indian icons in the information technology industry such as Infosys have often been tracked as true blue stories which serve as a beacon for any industry aiming to target the offshore space in services. Little wonder then that there are many companies that started out in search of the ‘holy grail’ of animation services — to be the Infosys of the animation world! Public memory is very short, however, and almost no one knew about Infosys for over a decade before it became a corporate giant. At the time, it was a software company that honed its technical and management skills and evolved into a well-organised IT company before it saw a window of opportunity and could drive home that advantage. The animation business is presently not comparable as there are hardly any companies (in the long form broadcast/theatrical sector) with that vintage and readiness to play such a game.”

Semi-Tough
 Mary Jo CatlettBack Stage has this short profile of actress Mary Jo Catlett, who is the voice of “ Mrs. Puff, the matronly puffer fish in Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants. [Her] 40-year career has encompassed a lengthy and diverse roster of credits in all mediums. This charming veteran actor/singer left her hometown of Denver to head for the bright lights of New York at age 23, encouraged by her parents to leave the nest and take a stab at her career ambitions. They bought her a train ticket and ushered her out the door, as she tearfully and fearfully embarked on her passionate mission, which had been set ever since she received a standing ovation in a seventh-grade school performance. Less than a year after her arrival, Gower Champion cast her as Ernestina in the 1964 Broadway premiere of Hello, Dolly!, alongside Carol Channing, and she never stopped working.”

Donald Duck Celebrates Turning 70
Donald DuckBBC News notes, “Donald Duck, one of Walt Disney's most endearing characters, is celebrating his 70th birthday. Celebrations will be taking place at Disney resorts and other venues across the globe to mark the milestone.” In a separate story on the topic, BBC News also notes, “Donald Duck's escapades and a fiery temperament have ensured seventy riotous years in the spotlight, which are being marked around the world on Wednesday. From his humble beginnings in Wise Little Hen — wearing his now-famous sailor suit and hat — he went on to win an Oscar, star in five feature films, and play a major part in the war effort during the 1940s. But the secret to his longevity lies in his distinctive — but unintelligible — command of language and his good intentions in a world that is trying to keep him down.”

June 8, 2004
A Revolution Threatens Puppet Regimes
According to The Toronto Globe and Mail, “While the puppeteers behind the Tony-winning Avenue Q have won over Broadway, their success comes at a time when many puppeteers — and puppets — find themselves being replaced by pixels. ... Avenue Q's popularity ... comes at a time when many North American puppeteers are hungry for work. Evidence that their job prospects are evaporating can be seen in Hollywood's embrace of computer graphics. The Lord of the Rings' Gollum was computer-animated, though based upon the movements and voice-work of actor Andy Serkis. For George Lucas's Star Wars prequels, Yoda's puppet strings were cast aside in favour of a digitalized Jedi Master. 'When they animated Yoda, it just wasn't the same,' says Fred Stinson, a veteran Canadian puppeteer and director at The Sheep Shop, a Toronto-based puppet designer. 'Many people said his soul was missing.'”

'Lord of the Rings' Visual Effects Creator Talks about Entrepreneurial Experiences
Jim RygielWisconsin Technology Network has this report on a talk given by visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel at the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference. Although there is much about Rygiel's work on The Lord of the Rings, he also talks about his pioneering days of computer animation when he was working for such studios as Pacific Electric Pictures and Digital Productions. “While at the early stages computers were time-consuming and expensive to operate — the advanced Cray computer cost roughly 'a million dollars a month overhead' and all graphics creation had to be typed in manually — Rygiel stuck with it and began producing several small parts of commercials and films, including a computer-generated Sony Walkman commercial which he won a CLIO award. However, the work remained without a primary market, as both interest and resources were scarce to produce anything larger. 'We knew we had bits and pieces of something applicable to film, but now we had to get the film executives interested,' Rygiel said of the struggle to get digital effects off the ground. 'The industry saw it [the commercial] as a computer graphical “thing” and not something that could make a motion picture.'”

In Brief: Pixar-Disney Deal?, Korean Animation Complex, & Animation Potential
Reuters reports (also here), “Pixar Animation Studios Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs on Monday left open the door for a new film distribution deal with Walt Disney Co., following an overture from Disney last week, but said no such talks had begun between the two sides.” ... The Korea Herald reporting from the Annecy Animation Festival says, “Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that city would build a complex, including an animation-only theater, near the World Cup Stadium in the capital to boost the domestic digital contents industry. ... The three-story building will cover 18,000 square meters and will include a digital contents center, convention hall and a display room. Construction is scheduled to start this year and will be completed in 2007. The digital center will provide education programs and financially support digital businesses to foster game, animation and other digital content industries.” ... The Merh News Agency has this item (also here) reporting on a speech by Iranian animator and ASIFA-International President Nureddin Zarrin-Kelk who is “convinced that animation is 'The 8th Art' and its potentials need to be discovered. ... Pointing to the high sales of animations in world cinemas, he added that using professionals’ experiences, and investing in the cinema of animation, could provide the grounds for more animation productions and contribute to the development of the Iranian art of animation.”

June 7, 2004
'Shrek 2' Hits $300 Million
Shrek 2 posterIn light of the release of the new Harry Potter film, Shrek 2 dropped to second place in the box office sweepstakes. Nevertheless, according to Box Office Prophets, “even with the huge success of the top film this weekend, Shrek 2 is still finding its own success in its third frame. Shrek 2 grossed $37 million this weekend, dropping only 48% versus Potter and its own holiday-inflated Memorial Day long Weekend gross. Shrek 2 became the quickest film to cross the $300 million mark ever, doing it in 18 days, a mind-blowing four days faster than Spider-Man did in 2002. Shrek 2 sits with a current gross of $313.6 million, and will now aim for Finding Nemo’s top animated gross of $339.7 million, which it will beat easily within the next two weekends. DreamWorks owes much of that success to smart marketing and a very effective release date.”

You Look Marvellous Dept.: The New Portrait
Portrait of Susan ShinThe New Yorker has this “Talk of the Town” piece that begins, “Those who bemoan the navel-gazing tendencies of contemporary art will be relieved to know that in some precincts the forces that shaped Velázquez, Gainsborough, and Sargent — patronage and vanity — still drive innovations in the market. Several months ago, Harry Stendhal, who with his sister owns Maya Stendhal Gallery, in Chelsea, commissioned a painter and filmmaker named Jeffrey Scher to do a portrait of his friend Susan Shin, whom Stendhal described on a Web site that he set up for her as “an icon of the times.” Shin, who works as an intellectual-property lawyer by day (Goodwin Procter) and as a committeewoman by night (The Young Friends of Save Venice, the Central Park Conservancy, New Yorkers for Children), is, Stendhal wrote, “generous with her resources — and, believe me, she has endless resources for the good of many charitable causes.” She is, furthermore, “glamorous and much sought after in New York, London, Paris, you name it.” In other words, she seemed to him the perfect candidate to inaugurate what he sees as the new age of society portraiture: the short animated film.” Click here to see the film.

LA Birthplace of the Flintstones, Others Being Preserved
Hanna Barbera Studio buildingThe Associated Press reports, “The [Los Angeles] City Council approved a plan that will preserve all three of the buildings that once comprised the historic Hanna-Barbera animation studio, where such TV icons as the Flintstones, Barney Rubble, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Scooby-Doo came to life. 'This was really the birthplace of TV animation,' said Ken Bernstein, the Los Angeles Conservancy's director of preservation issues. He hailed the City Council's May 25 approval of a plan that saves the buildings, which were denied historic landmark status in 1997.”

In Brief Seoul and Annecy & Simpsons a Scientific Revelation
The Korea Times reports, “Seoul City Mayor Lee Myung-bak on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with Bernard Bosson, mayor of the French city of Annecy, to boost exchanges between the two cities in the animation industry.” Lee is visiting the Annecy Animation Festival where “a total of 52 Korean animations, including Wonderful Days by Kim Moon-saeng, Hammer Boy by An Tae-kun, and Empress Chung by Nelson Shin will be shown.” ... Scotland on Sunday notes, “TV shows such as The Simpsons and Star Trek could be the best way of teaching science to children, Scottish researchers have claimed. Examples from comedy and drama shows are being used in classrooms to demonstrate how issues such as recycling, solar power and DNA tests relate to real life. ... Project leader Dr Fiona Scott said: 'The Simpsons has been used quite a lot. I think the people that write it are quite scientifically minded and understand quite a few of the issues. One episode describes an environmental problem when Homer falls out with the rubbish collection people and the waste piles up in their home. There is a lot more science on television than you realise.'”

June 6, 2004
In Brief: 'Garfield' & Webel Academy Opens
Garfield: The MovieThe Indianapolis Star has this interview with Hoosier Jim Davis, the 58-year-old Hoosier cartoonist whose comic strip has been adapted for the forthcoming Garfield: The Movie. It notes, “When Marion native Davis, who grew up on small farm, talked to Star Wars creator George Lucas many years ago about a Garfield movie, computer animation 'was so crude' that he shelved the idea. He decided to wait until the technology matured. Once he saw 'characters with fur that blew in the breeze,' in Monsters, Inc., he knew that the time was now. See also separate article in The Redlands (California) Daily Facts. ... The Times of India, in noting the inauguration of the Kolkata-based Toonz-Webel Academy, a joint venture between The West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (Webel) and Toonz Animation India, notes Webel has “started talks with leading animation firms based in Mumbai and south India to establish studios here.”

June 5, 2004
Hometown Cat Garfield Hits the Big Screen Next Week
Garfield: The MovieThe Muncie (Indiana) Star Press has this story about the live-action/animated Garfield: The Movie, which is based on the comic strip created by Muncie resident Jim Davis. It notes, “Garfield, the most syndicated comic strip in the world, has been wise-cracking his way into our hearts since the strip's debut in 1978. There have been TV cartoons and Garfield animated specials, but never a full-length Garfield movie. Why now? 'We always wanted to do a full-length feature, but somehow an hour and half of traditional animation just didn't seem like it was going to work,' Davis said. 'You can't out-Disney Disney. Once Who Framed Roger Rabbit? came out, I started getting excited about the possibilities of live-action and animation. Now, with Computer Generated Imaging, it's even more realistic. Garfield is real living in a real world.'”

June 4, 2004
Swimming with the Shark
Shark Tale posterFilm Stew has this behind-the-scenes look at DreamWorks' publicity blitz at the Cannes Film Festival on behalf of its forthcoming Shark Tale, which piggybacked on the world premiere of Shrek 2. It notes that voice actors “Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Jack Black were also in town to put their weight behind a presentation that included screening of some footage, [and] a Q &A session with the three cast members .... Rather alarmingly, it seemed that UIP’s PR team, which organized the event for DreamWorks, literally wanted to take advantage of journalists. A couple of reporters had confessed they’d been rung up the day before by publicists and asked to ask a specific question at the Q & A — that being: ‘How important is the international marketplace for the animated film market these days?’ Another journalist offered that he had been approached on the day before the event, with the foresaid question written down on a piece of paper.”

Local Animator Gets National Recognition
Onalaska (Wisconsin) Community Life has this profile of Steve Johnston, the Holmen resident, whose “dream [of making it big] became a reality after producing, editing and animating nationally syndicated Ashley Furniture commercials, starring the lazy cat from the comic strip, Garfield. Ashley Furniture, the Arcadia-based furniture manufacturer, was having what Johnston said he likes to refer to as an 'animation emergency' in January. They needed an animator for their commercial spots starring Garfield, so the voice talent for the Ashley Furniture commercials, Jacklyn Daniels, put the furniture business and Johnston in contact with one another. 'I just walked in the door and it was the right spot at the right time,' Johnston said. Johnston said he began by making 20 to 30 different commercial spots. However, that number has since grown to 105 spots that are broadcast on television stations everywhere from New York City to Los Angeles to Seattle.” Johnston worked in animation for 20 years before setting up Wow Factory, where he “produced spots for Western Wisconsin Technical College, Winona State University, Winona, Minn., National Hotrod Association and regional spots for Pepsi.”

The Hardest Working Vocal Cords in Show Business: An Interview with Patrick Warburton
Patrick WarburtonThis Filmcritic.com article begins, “From the cartoon world of The Family Guy to the real life soundstage of Seinfeld to the blended realities of both realms in a recent spate of AmEx commercials, Patrick Warburton has seen (or at least voiced) it all. His booming contrabass underscores the dry tone embodied by much of his work, whether his chiseled visage is on screen or off. His four children, however, seem to prefer the latter — whenever they’re allowed to see it, that is. 'Just because [The Family Guy] was a cartoon, at first we thought we could let them watch it. And then it became “Oh, my God! Kids, out of the room!”,' he says. Patrick’s upcoming work for The Cartoon Network is similarly off limits. 'It’s called The Venture Brothers and it’s funny. It’s a take-off on Johnny Quest, but it’s very adult and very tweaked and that’s something that [my children] will not watch. No such embargo is required for his work in family-friendly fare like The Emperor’s New Groove, a fact that he appreciates.”


'Kirikou': Out of Africa, Into Your Heart

Kirikou and the SorceressThe Washington Post has this review (also here) by Michael O'Sullivan of Michel Ocelot's 1998 film Kirikou and the Sorceress on the occasion of its screening at the American Film Institute's Silver Theater. It is, he says, “A refreshing change from the Disneyfied setting of The Lion King, which somehow made Africa look a bit like an air-brushed theme park in Southern California, the animated feature Kirikou and the Sorceress feels less like a cartoon than a painting. With flat, theatrical-backdrop-style scenery inspired by post-impressionist artist Henri Rousseau and characters modeled after the stiffly formal figures of Egyptian art, the film — based loosely on a traditional West African folk tale about a heroic boy who challenges a wicked sorceress — may take American eyes some getting used to. It's worth it.”

In Brief: Totally Toon, Disney Stamps, Steig's Jungle & Astroboy's Laboratory
Disney stampsPune Newsline has this brief story on Digikore Studios, a service facility founded founded in 2000 by Abhishek More, “under the aegis of the family business Growel Group. ... 'While we intend to focus on international productions at our Pune branch, a proposed Mumbai centre will take on special effects of film and television production in India which in itself is a growing opportunity,' he says.”... The Associated Press reports (also here), “A set of four postage stamps and other mail products featuring Disney characters will be issued June 23.” See also this press release, which notes, “'With this stamp pane, the U.S. Postal Service honors the “art” of friendship as portrayed by Walt Disney and his studio animators," said Postmaster General John Potter, who will dedicate the stamps.'” ... According to Comingsoon.net,Vanguard Animation founder [John H. Williams] has optioned exclusive rights to The Zajaba Jungle from the [William Steig's] estate, says The Hollywood Reporter.” Williams had earlier brought Steig's Shrek to DreamWorks. ... FilmForce says, Variety reports that the long-in-development live-action feature film version of Osamu Tezuka's cartoon classic Astroboy is moving ahead at Columbia Pictures. Genndy Tartakovsky — whose credits include Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls – will write and direct for Don Murphy's Angry Films and Jim Henson Pictures.”

June 3, 2004
Disney CEO Sees Chance of Pixar Deal
Reuters reports, “Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner on Wednesday said there was still a chance for a new film distribution deal with Finding Nemo creator Pixar Animation Studios Inc., but noted that the companies were not in talks. 'I will not believe it is over until it is over,' he told investors at a conference hosted by Sanford Bernstein and monitored by Webcast. ... Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs in February said it was very unlikely that talks would resume with Disney, but Pixar also is not hurrying to find a new partner, and Jobs last month said the companies were working together productively on the launch of The Incredibles in November. Eisner painted a grim future for traditional, hand-drawn animated fare, known as two dimensional, or 2-D, saying Disney would focus by itself and with others on computer animation, or 3-D. 'The 2-D business is coming to an end, just like black and white came to an end,' Eisner said.

Critical Point for Animation
Empress ChungJoongang Ilbo has this profile of Nelson Shin, founder and head of Akom Productions and publisher of Animatoon (which I write for), as well as explore the state of Korean animation. It begins by saying, “It's been just about 30 years since Nelson Shin designed the light saber fight scene in Star Wars. It's been about 20 years since he directed The Transformers animated movie and set up Akom Productions, one of the first Korean animation firms. Now the 65-year-old Korean animation veteran is breaking new ground again. His feature-length animated film, Empress Chung [pictured], jointly created with North Korean animators, is opening next month in Korea but will first be shown at the Annecy Film Festival in France next week. The hand-drawn film required a budget just shy of 7 billion won ($6 million) and seven years of work, 10 years if you include the gestation period. 'The animation market is hard,' says Mr. Shin, who has won Emmys for his work. It's more than just hard. The Korean animation market is also at a critical juncture. From its princely position as the largest market in the world for contracting work, also known as OEM (original equipment manufacture) production, it has fallen to fourth.”

Networks Animate Prime Time
With DreamWorks' Father of the Pride debuting soon on NBC, Fox News has this story which says, “Prime-time TV could soon look a lot like Saturday mornings. Scrambling to fill voids left by sitcoms, revive a reality-flooded landscape and compete with cable, video games and the remote control, networks are scheduling animated shows during the coveted weeknight slots. But historically, prime-time 'toons have had a hard time catching on. 'When it comes to prime-time broadcast, it really has to be broad,' said animated author and historian Jerry Beck, who runs Cartoonbrew.com and Cartoonresearch.com. 'That’s a tall order for an animated series. They have to hit the bull’s-eye right away.' ... Save for a few notable exceptions over the last four decades — The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Simpsons and King of the Hill — network's prime-time animated series usually die a quick death. 'I wouldn’t want to bet the farm on the potential success of these things,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television. 'Cable animation is doing really well, but on prime-time network, it still seems to do best as a Christmas special.'”

Let's Get Animated
Malay Mail has this story which notes, “Animation is big business in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it’s one genre that has not been tapped by local producers. At the moment, Shrek 2 ... is stomping the local cinemas, proving once again that the right animation can mean great business. ... So, why hasn’t this lucrative genre attracted local film-makers? The last local animated feature was made in 2001 – Putih a 3D flick based on a local folklore Bawang Putih Bawang Merah [which took] Eurofine more than two years to make. Unfortunately, the fairy tale tanked when released in the cinemas. Putih was too old-fashioned and its 3D animation outdated. Silat Lagenda, the first local animated feature, also failed to impress despite being loosely based on legendary Malay warrior Hang Tuah. ... In between Silat Lagenda and Putih, there was Cheritera The Movie. Though it featured three short animated features, it still didn’t work.”

Anime Dreams
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone ComplexReason Online has this review by Anders Sandberg of the Japanese TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is based on the film Ghost in the Shell, which in turn was based on Masamune Shirow’s comic book, which “may soon be available to Americans on the Cartoon Network. Between its dystopian politics and its postmodern take on identity, the cartoon engages issues far more interesting than those you’ll find on most live-action shows.” He concludes that, “Refreshingly, Shirow does not try to offer neat answers to the issues his show raises. He’s content to speculate about the ways technology and politics will intersect, allowing his audience to consider the questions he raises — or just to sit back and enjoy the show.”

Secrets Come out in 'Last Exile'
The Last Exile DVD coverEric Henrickson in The Detroit News reviews two new anime video releases, Last Exile: Breakthrough vol. 4 [pictured] and Cosplay Complex. He says, “From character design to ship design to use of CGI, Last Exile remains the new standard for other series to follow. The colors and backgrounds are gorgeous and the character animation far above average. The dub voice work is mostly strong too, though the actor who voices Dio ... doesn't have the same ethereal quality as Japanese voice actor Jyunko Noda. The intricate mix of personal and political, along with intriguing characters and these high production values, make this a series that should rest on every anime lover's DVD rack.” In regards to Cosplay Complex, while he “enjoyed the beginning of this three-episode OVA, which pokes fun at cosplay (dressing up as favorite characters for conventions). The idea of a high-school cosplay club is appealing. That it's popular enough to warrant a national contest makes it ripe for the comedic picking. In this case, the comedy's laced with innuendo and gratuitous nudity, giving it a much-deserved 17+ rating. OK, so the sophomoric jokes can get a bit annoying, but it is kind of fun to pick out what all the costumes are.” Nevertheless, he gives it only a D grade.

June 2, 2004
Disney Watch: Eisner and Karmazin, Ovitz Lawsuit & 3 New Disney Channels
Reuters reports, “Walt Disney Chairman George Mitchell has said he is confident in current management after Mel Karmazin, long seen as a potential Disney chief, left rival media company Viacom. Dissident Disney shareholders Roy Disney and Stanley Gold immediately called for the board to look at Karmazin as a replacement for embattled Disney chief executive Michael Eisner. Karmazin's abrupt resignation as president and chief operating officer of Viacom on Tuesday reignited speculation that he could replace Eisner.” ... Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press (also here), “Former Walt Disney Co. board members Stanley Gold and Roy E. Disney have been ordered to give new depositions in a shareholder lawsuit against the company over the brief tenure of former Disney president Michael Ovitz. A Delaware judge gave the law firm representing shareholders in that lawsuit permission to take new depositions from the two because of inconsistencies in their pre-resignation testimony and their post-resignation criticisms of the Disney board.” ... Based on a story in Germany's Handelsblatt, Reuters says Disney plans three new channels “in India within the next 12 months,” one of which will be aimed at children.

NBC Stumbles in Marketing Animated Show
Father of the PrideAn Associated Press story (also here) about DreamWorks' new primetime CGI show Father of the Pride begins, “When taped remarks from Roy Horn were played for a recent gathering in New York, the Las Vegas magician recovering from a near fatal tiger mauling was met with respectful silence. Silence, too, greeted what followed in the NBC sales presentation to Madison Avenue: Clips of Father of the Pride, an animated comedy based on Horn and partner Siegfried Fischbacher's act, failed to draw laughs. In a New York minute, bad buzz had started humming for one of NBC's highest-profile fall series. ''King of the Pride' is DOA,' was the headline the following day (May 18) in an online newsletter distributed by industry analyst Jack Myers. 'The animated series was in far worse shape' than Horn, Myers wrote, 'and the reaction of NBC's advertising clients was so negative that it's unlikely the program will last on NBC's schedule.'”

Keeping Up With The Jonases
The New York Jewish Week has this profile of Howard Jonas, the 48-year-old founder of telecommunications giant IDT Corp., which has lately been expanding its animation holdings to include DPS Film Roman and Mainframe Entertainment. The article focuses on Jonas' and his wife Debbie's philanthropic activities, his attitude towards Judaism and their personal life. It only briefly touches on IDT as a business, noting it “recently launched an entertainment division with digital animation studios and a right-leaning talk radio syndicate,” adding “The Newark headquarters ... has a uniquely Jewish flavor.” It also notes, “Photos of Jonas with Bush, and one with Vice President Dick Cheney, adorn IDT’s executive suite. Jonas is an ardent Republican, and will be one of 12 vice chairs of this summer’s Republican National Convention in New York City.”


In Brief: Five Difficult Pieces, Anime and Globalization
& Korea Comics Museum
The Five ObstructionsRichard Corliss in Time has this review of Lars Von Trier's The Five Obstructions, which he calls “a kind of reality-TV show for art-movie lovers,” and takes special note of its animated segment [pictured] “made in collaboration with Waking Life co-director Bob Sabiston.” ... The San Jose Mercury News foreign affairs columnist Daniel Sneider notes, “one of the oddest pathways of globalization stretches from a cramped artist's studio on the outskirts of Tokyo straight into tens of millions of American homes, including my own. On Saturday mornings, children, mostly boys like my son Ben and his brother Eli, are enthralled by the complex animated adventures of a boy named Yugi and his friends. The tale of Yu-Gi-Oh! has dwarfed the cute creatures of Pokemon as the most successful export of Japanese anime.” ... The Korea Times has this story about the “Korea Comics Museum in Puchon, west of Seoul,” which includes some animation-related material, including a current exhibit on the “Webisode.”

June 1, 2004
Boxoffice Goes Ogre the Top
Shrek 2Shrek 2 in its second week continued to dominate the American box office over the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, beating the big budget disaster movie, The Day After Tomorrow, $92.2 million to $86 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shrek 2 has generated an estimated $257 million in 13 days and is on track to surpass the total domestic gross for Shrek ($267.7 million) around Wednesday. As it stands, the second weekend gross for the lovable green ogre marks the biggest for any film, besting Spider-Man ($71.4 million), and it marks a Memorial Day weekend best, topping Universal's Lost World: Jurassic Park ($91.2 million). Box Office Prophets asks, “Where is Shrek 2 heading in terms of total box office? The answer could be quite startling. The original Shrek, albeit opening with much lower sales, pulled a total box office to opening weekend multiplier of 6.3; it opened with about $42 million and finished with $267.7 million. If we lower that number to four because of the difference in the opening weekends, we are still talking about a potential $432 million (or more) in domestic sales alone. Shrek 2 is a lifeboat for DreamWorks, as Shrek 2’s production budget was only $60 million. However, that number most likely does not include the $10 million salaries paid to stars Myers, Murphy and Diaz.”

In the World of 'Tomorrow,' Creating New Recipes for Disaster
The Day After TomorrowSpeaking of
The Day After Tomorrow, The Washington Post has this story about the film's much-publicized special effects. It reports, “When the 48-year-old German director [Roland Emmerich] gave the script to his favorite visual effects supervisor, Karen Goulekas (Spider-Man), she nearly fainted. 'I usually try to read a script through for story,' she recalls, 'but I was so shocked, I thought, 'Man, he has gone mad.' The freight ship coming down Fifth Avenue sent me over the edge.' Even at a time when visual effects are a routine component of your average summer tent-pole movie, all Goulekas could think about was how difficult it was going to be to pull off The Day After Tomorrow .... To handle these monumental effects, Goulekas first turned to her old FX shop, Digital Domain (Titanic). But although the Santa Monica effects house designed many stunning Day After Tomorrow sequences, including the destructive twisters, it was painfully slow. In October, six months before the movie's delivery date, Goulekas and Emmerich pulled the project from Digital Domain, terrified that the work wouldn't be finished in time. They parceled out the remaining effects to more than 500 people working at 12 different effects houses.”

Listen Bud, He's Got Canadian Blood
Paul SolesThe Toronto Globe and Mail has this profile of actor Paul Soles, who was the voice of Spider-Man in the 1960s animated series, apparently done in conjunction with the pending release of a DVD featuring all three seasons of the original show. It starts, “'My spidey sense is tingling.' The voice of one of the world's most popular superheroes is instantly recognizable — each word still layered with its trademark mixture of melodrama and determination. But the nationality of this web-slinger is what comes as a surprise. Not only is Spider-Man a Canadian, it turns out he's also a former employee of the CBC and has graced Stratford's legendary stage. ... While he has received acclaim as both a radio broadcaster and actor, Soles scoffs at the idea that his cartoon work is childish and of lesser importance. 'If you are connecting with an audience in a story — whether Shakespeare or a cartoon — the same methods are employed as an actor,' Soles explains.”

In Brief: Winsor McCay & Stars Get Animated
Winsor McCay: The Master EditionIt's not exactly in the blockbuster category, but Dave Kehr in The New York Times does briefly take critical note of the DVD release from Milestone Film & Video of Winsor McCay: The Master Edition, which is a must for all serious students of animation. He notes, “It's disquieting to find that the man who virtually invented character animation — the New York newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay — also worked out most of its formal possibilities, from extreme stylization to photographic realism, within a few years of his first film, the 1911 Little Nemo (based on McCay's popular comic strip). ... Winsor McCay: The Master Edition brings together new digital transfers of every known film by McCay, including his best known production, the 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur, in which the painstakingly hand-drawn title creature irresistibly comes to life, exuding a sweet, girlish charm that seduces to this day.” ... The Manchester Evening News has short article about how Irish singer Ronan Keating and “Queen Of The Jungle” Kerry McFadden are the latest stars to lend their personalities to animators at Cosgrove Hall. They are to be the voices behind characters on the Chorlton-based company's latest project, Shelltown.” The interesting part is that Ronan is, “Not only has he agreed to become the show's lead, Splat, he is also composing the music and has invested in the company.”

© 2004 Harvey Deneroff

 

Animation Consultants International
News on the Web — June 2004